In Giants and Toys, Masumura portrays food as an object that sustains life. Unlike other works we’ve covered, the caramel in the film symbolizes the more modern idea of a commercial business and the inevitable corruption of these businesses as opposed to a necessity for life.
Kyoko Shima, one of the main protagonists, is chosen by World Caramel Company to become their new advertising symbol. In the beginning of the film, she is free, independent and can make her own decisions. Her rich personality is evident when she refuses to go with Nishi during their initial encounter and her playful presence is a striking contrast to the serious men of the company who have no choice but to obey their bosses.
However, as the film progresses, she too gets sucked into the horrors of the commercial realm. The scene between the Goda, Nishi and the photographer can be interpreted as the “stripping” of her innocence before her entrance into the commercial world. The scene itself looked almost sexual, like they were taking advantage of her. Towards the end of the film, her outer image completely changes as she layers her face with makeup and fixes her teeth. Simultaneously though, she loses the very innocence that made her human. The fact that she was able to outsmart Goda shows that she is no has perhaps become even more severely imprisoned by the riches and fame of the commercial world than he. Ultimately, she becomes yet another pretty tool of the commercial world, almost comparable to the caramel she advertises: pretty but fundamentally empty. It becomes easy to see that her inevitable fall from fame, much like the caramels eventual inability to sell, is imminent.
The changes can be seen below. In the former, she looks innocent, hence the black and white, since she is not yet exposed to all the corruption or “colors” of the world. Whereas in the latter, it looks as though she has been packaged, accessorized and presented like the caramels. She is covered with makeup and aesthetic adjustments but at the same time it looks as though she has been transformed into something almost barbarian and not human. The fact that the latter is in color also shows that she is no longer her former, innocent self.
Another significant observation would be that there are no closely bonded relationships in the film. It seems like everyone acts according to what is best for their own financial or social situation. Kyoko is the only character who seeks a genuine relationship with Nishi; however, he views her as an exploitable pawn of the company. Everyone else’s relationships are fueled by an ulterior motive, like finding out the rival company’s tactics.
Only when we step out of the corporate world do we begin to feel a true sense of bonding. For instance, Kyoko’s family is very connected. They are all very comfortable with each other, and sit freely in close proximity, which shows that they are unafraid to hide anything. In contrast, the company sits in an overly reserved fashion that looks as though every one of them has something to hide. This lack of intimacy creates of feeling of detachment, leading to the eventual breakdown of the company.
One of the most engaging scenes of the movie happens towards the end when Goda and Nishi argue about what it means to be “human” and Nishi threatens to leave the company. At this point, Goda mentions that people in Japan must work hard to survive. This perspective is very interesting because it is ultimately true for the modern day. Unlike simpler times, when people grew their own food to survive, the modern teaches us to work hard and use money to buy food to survive. There is a noticeable disconnect between what we perceive to be important (money) and what is actually important (the food we buy using the money). Humanity today, as portrayed by the movie, is disillusioned to believe that money, fame and power is everything whereas in reality, it is the bare necessities of life that are important and make us happy. Goda is never able to recognize this and later suffers the consequences as he begins to die. Nishi is able to recognize the effect of corruption; however as he walks down the street in a spacesuit, we can tell that he is still trapped in the commercial bubble, since (like Goda said) he must still earn money to survive in this world.