Yasuzo Masamura’s film Giants and Toys is the tale of three caramel companies, Apollo, Giant, and World, as they struggle for dominance of the Japanese caramel market. As the stakes grow higher, each company resorts to more outrageous promotional tactics in an effort to turn the biggest profit, resulting in the extreme commercialization of what otherwise would be a simple treat. Ultimately, this single minded attention to the bottom line corrupts the innocence of caramels. In particular, this is exemplified through the transformation Kyoko undergoes over the course of the film from a relatively innocent girl who appears to be naïve with regards to the corporate world of World Caramels to a shrewd and cunning businesswoman who is able to outsmart the very people who tried to use her, Goda and the other executives of World.
When we first encounter Kyoko, she comes across as a rather innocent and honest character. In the above scene, she eyes the desserts with wonder, much like a child would when presented with such treats. Even when she comes to sit down and talk with Goda she is quite animated and full of energy, bouncing from topic to topic and refusing to sit still in any one position for long. She even playfully sticks out her tongue in response to one of Goda’s comments about her rather masculine handwriting. Also, she is dressed in vibrant primary colors, which make her stand out from the muted tones of Goda and his protégé, Yosuke’s suits. This visually sets her apart from the rigidness of the corporate world, and when combined with her relatively innocent and childish personality, she seems to be as far removed from corporate influence as possible. Another visual cue to emphasize who is calling the shots in this initial encounter between Goda, Yosuke, and Kyoko is how Kyoko gets put into the inner seat of the booth at the restaurant and is boxed in by Goda. This indicates that Goda is in control, at least for the moment, because a person in the inner seat needs to let out by the person in the outer seat, which parallels the dominance Goda is trying to exert upon Kyoko. Especially in comparison to the machinations of Goda, her apparent lack of sophistication and her pep make her seem to be more pure and resistant to commercialization. In fact, one of Kyoko’s most characteristic features, her crooked and rotten teeth, along with her stated disapproval of cosmetic surgery, immediately convey that she is relatively immune to the social pressures which would lead another person to seek physical beauty in order to be more accepted by society. Goda uses this characteristic to market her as an attainable beauty in his campaign to make her a star.
Even though Kyoko gives of the appearance of innocence and naïveté, that is not to say she lacks under intelligence and cunning underneath that façade. She demonstrates this in refusing Yosuke’s initial request for her to meet with him and Goda by cleverly yelling out for the police to make it seem as if Yosuke was about to assault her. Kyoko’s street smarts may in fact be the driving force behind her metamorphosis over the course of the movie because she realizes that she needs to be flexible in order to succeed in the corporate realm where everyone is trying to use her in one way or another. She doesn’t become any more or less corrupted via intense commercialization than the other characters; she just is flexible and comfortable enough to openly show it because of her street smarts. For example, when Goda tells her to say that the money she makes from modeling goes to helping her sick father, she initially protests, saying that she only really wants the money for herself. In the end though, she knows that adopting this persona will bring her more money and gives in to this request.
By the end of the film, the metamorphosis is complete. Kyoko no longer is the bubbly, innocent girl who Goda initially recruited and tried to control. She has matured into a shrewd businesswoman who navigates the commercial world with ease. While at first she needed Goda’s help to become a star, it is now Goda’s turn to come asking her for aid in an effort to revive World’s sales. However, this time it is too late. Kyoko, who now wears sophisticated fashion in the muted colors associated with the corporate world and has gotten cosmetic surgery to fix her teeth, knows how much she is worth and refuses to do work outside the scope of her contract without a hefty fee. Showing that she can work independently by sitting apart from Goda and Yosuke, Kyoko no longer exudes the playful energy she exhibited when she first met with Goda and Yosuke. She sits cool, calm, and collected while nonchalantly smoking a cigarette and has a satisfied look on her face that seems to indicate that she know that she is now the one in control, not Goda or Yosuke. Through the pressures of commercialization, the tadpole has matured into a fully fledged frog.