Yasuzo Masumura’s, Giants and Toys, is a consumerist film that satirizes the post war growth of 1950’s Japan. The film begins by introducing three rival caramel companies: World, Giant, and Apollo, all of which hope to increase their caramel sales through new promotional campaigns. As World’s executives, Nishi and Goda, discover Kyoko, an ordinary and charming girl, they believe her quirky face could strengthen their campaign and act as the impetus to their success. As Kyoko becomes a star, the competition intensifies and the three businesses invest all their time to their publicity campaigns. Throughout his film, Masumura criticizes the consumerist culture of Japan by demonstrating how corporate greed and the desire to “win” leads to personal destruction, loss of identity and uniqueness, and the abandonment of one’s morals and values.
In the opening scene, World’s boss compares the “masses” of the crowd to caramels. Here, we see how even early on in the film, one’s identity is often lost in the corporate business world. The caramels themselves are all the same as they are made for the sole purpose of making a profit. This objective along with the caramel’s uniform shape, size, and taste suggest that the masses are grouped together as one rather than classifying each person as a distinct and separate individual. This comparison demonstrates how both the people and the candy lose their uniqueness. Linking the masses to caramels further explains how World believes they have the power to manipulate the crowd to desire their commodity in the same way that they have complete control over their caramel production.
As the film continues, Goda’s unremitting desire to become the number one caramel company instigates his downfall and loss of morality. In the beginning of the film, one of World’s prominent and very involved executives suffers from a horrible cough. This scene seems to foreshadow Goda’s self-deterioration and weakening health. As Goda is promoted to the PR position, his corporate greed escalates and thus causes him to collapse. Investing all of his time to the campaign, Goda endures the same cough previously seen by the other World executive. While Goda’s health weakens and the stress of the campaign increases, he resorts to immoral and unethical acts. For instance, asking Nishi to seduce Kyoko demonstrates his corrupt judgment and his willingness to do anything that will improve World’s sales. Goda’s obsession over the campaign and hunger to achieve success drives him to insanity and causes him to lose his identity and ultimately destruct.
Similarly, as Kyoko becomes a star her identity transforms. Like Goda, she becomes too invested in the corporate and mass media world and makes stardom a priority. The opening montage symbolizes Kyoko’s complete transformation throughout the film. In this first screenshot, Kyoko’s original identity is present through her crooked teeth, uniqueness, and “the girl-next-door image.” However, as Masumura utilizes Pop Art to multiply the image, Kyoko’s picture becomes clouded in black and white, as we are unable to see her quirky qualities. Unlike the first colored screenshot that clearly represents her identity, these multiplied pictures imply a transformation. As all of the images are blown away, it symbolizes Kyoko’s loss of original identity and her transformation into an unrecognizable star.
Clearly then, the caramel production leads to the loss of identity and dehumanization of individuals. The insatiable desire to dominate the corporate market and rise up to the top produces detrimental effects that alter one’s individuality and values.