Commodication and Machinization of Food and People-Jonah Nakagawa

The scene pictured here from Yasuzo Masumara’s Giants and Toys comes at what we would expect to be the climax of the movie. World Candy company’s main rivals Apollo suffer a major blow when their factory burns down and in response, World ramps up their production and publicity to exploit the gap in the market. Any qualms about opportunism are practically ignored in the pursuit of profit. Candy rolls off of the assembly line and labels are stamped on with minimal human interaction. The visual message being communicated here is that food can be produced by machines instantaneously and that the people who consume it are machines as well. Although the plot of Giants and Toys revolves around food industry, the theme of commodification and commercialization of food is primarily used to parallel similar developments in humans.

Goda redefines human nature

In the first screen capture, the CEO’s are discussing the concept of morals and how they might apply to corporate competition. Classical Japanese concepts of Bushido are mentioned. Goda, however, immediately cuts this path of reasoning off by painting a more cutthroat picture of the modern Japanese man. The age of humanism has become the age of machines. The connection of people to the food they eat is no longer personal. People have become consumer automatons which respond to inputs of media and publicity with outputs of buying a product. Ad campaigns are merely techniques to enforce this. Telling people that life can be bought, animals can be won, and that space men are the future are all just ways of separating them from the traditional model of the human. To reflect this, the movie quickly cuts to footage of machinery churning out boxes of caramels, with one woman fainting from over exhaustion.

The machinery of human consumption

Goda even gives the factory employees directions to ignore any human emotions they might feel. Humans and human needs have become expendable in order to maintain this capitalist machine. This is, in a sense, one of the only classical Japanese traits that remains: self sacrifice. It is no coincidence that in every scene with the directors of the company there is a profit chart looming in the background, holding the strings, so to speak.

Goda gives a pep talk, with the ubiquitous profit chart in the background

The full impact of transforming humans into machines is most apparent in the fate of Mr. Goda. Embroiled in his corporate culture, he begins to treat his own body like a machine, thinking he can sustain himself with pep pills and tranquilizers. Goda has lost his connection with proper nourishment, which is obviously not a sustainable habit and ends up being his downfall. World Candy Company declines in a similar fashion as their plan to ramp up production and publicity to increase sales falls far short of expectations. Where we would normally expect this sequence to lead to a conclusion of World being able to outsell their competitors and come out on top (say in a romantic comedy), instead we see their momentum beginning to run out in various ways. The result is a savage critique of the futility of trying to equate humans to machines.


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