Yasuzo Masamura’s “Giants and Toys” is a modern comedic film based on the competition of three caramel companies, fighting to attract the most consumer attention. The film follows Nishi, an advertising executive for World Caramels, as he embarks on an advertising campaign with his boss in attempt to outshine their competition. The film shows Japan is a modern technological empire, complete with fleets of suit-sporting executives and mass production drowned with machinery. The state of the Japanese consumer seems highly mechanical. Food, particularly candy, plays an important role in “Giants and Toys” as it shows the overt theme of commodification present in the film. Yasuzo Masamura uses the caramels to show how commodification impresses upon all aspects of Nishi, his advisor, his girlfriend, and Kyoko’s lives, as they quickly become a consumer driven product themselves. Ultimately, Masamura comments on the effects and dehumanization of the commodification process that devours the characters’ lives.
Masamura uses the contrast between the younger executives and the elder executives frequently throughout the film to show the effects of modernization. In the opening scene, the president of World Caramels’ health is worsening. He is teased by some of the younger executives while he pops pills for his stomach pain, envying the superior health of his son-in-law and the other executives. Throughout the film, comments are spewed about the company president’s health suggesting he will soon be replaced by his son-in-law. As the film progresses, the son-in-law begins to feel the effects of his work, becoming more like his father-in-law than was expected. Soon, he too is popping pills for his stomach pain and losing sleep night after night. Like the caramels, the president of World Caramels is a dispensable product, soon to be replaced by a newer younger model. Similarly, when Kyoko is hired as the new face for World Caramels, a mega celebrity is born. Photos flow through the streets of Kyoko’s twisted teeth and luminous skin. At the headquarters, a woman dressed in black is seen crying as Kyoko is rushed by a group of fans for autographs and pictures. Nishi hasn’t a clue that the woman used to be the face of World Caramels. His supervisor tells him that the woman is realizing her time as a celebrity is over. She is dispensable and forgettable. Masamura uses the caramels to employ this property of the film. The quality of caramels is never the focus of the company. Advertising, showcasing, and profit is priority one. The caramels are produced by machine in mass quantities and at rapid speed to maximize availability and production. The caramels are totally dispensable as the companies have no regard for the actual product at hand. To parallel, the executives and employees are just as dispensable as the caramels. In the credits at the very beginning of the film, Kyoko’s photo is duplicated to the beat of the music until the photo becomes smaller and unrecognizable as the images reduplicate by powers of two. This scene of massive production without concern for the image or product reoccurs when the factory shows how the caramels are made, creating a parallel to the credit scene and a parallel theme.
Masamura also comments on the ways in which commodification changes and dehumanizes those in the industrial world. When Kyoko is discovered, she is lively and child-like, caring more about her tadpoles than anything in her world. She lives with her large family and criticizes the celebrities who change their image for the industry. She resists getting her picture taken at the beginning of the film, being subjected to near sexual violence as the executives force her to photograph. She soon transforms as her celebrity grows with her ballooning ego. She finds herself buying spectacular dresses and fixing her iconic teeth. Like all other sales items, Kyoko demands Nishi reciprocate her love, offering to buy him whatever he pleases. She views Nishi as a product, just like the product she has become, for which she is willing to pay top dollar. She ironically and accidentally kills her own tadpoles by feeding them caramels. They too were subjected to commodification. Nishi’s relationship with his girlfriend who works in a competing caramel company is quickly threatened by the girlfriend’s competitive nature. She toys with Nishi, expelling the motives of World Caramels from him without reciprocating information. When the advertising campaign becomes public, Nishi is furious, breaking up with his girlfriend. Her face seems shocked, but within only a few seconds she is smiling and rejoining the flock of suits down the street. Nishi is dispensable as well. Each of the characters becomes victim to commodification; they are products used for profit.