Masumura’s Giants and Toys is a film about Japans rising capitalistic society. The film follows Nishi, a new employee under the advertising division of the candy company “World Caramel”. Nishi begins work at “World Caramel” at a time when the company’s sales have stagnated. As a result Nishi gets thrown into an all-out campaign to raise World Caramel’s sales and a fierce competition between two rival candy companies – “Apollo” and “Giant Caramel”.
Under the direction of Goda, the first stage of “World Caramel’s” efforts to raise sales is to adopt a “space” theme for their caramels. Goda also begins a project to transform an ordinary girl, Kyoko, into a popular celebrity so that she can become the “cover girl” of “World Caramel”. Goda hopes that her popularity and endorsement of their product will raise the sales of their caramels. It is almost like they are turning Kyoko into the candy wrapper of the caramel, in other words, consumers will see the space them and Kyoko as a representation of the caramel and are promoting the candy because through adverstisements instead of the superiority of the caramel inside the wrapper. If we explore this subject even further, we can see how it doesn’t matter who Kyoko is – an ordinary proletariat girl – instead, it is all about how Goda “wraps her up”, or in other words, how he promotes her image in order to appeal to the public.
Towards the end of the film however, Goda’s project crumbles as the money he is spending in advertisement is not reflecting positively in sales. Things get worse when Kyoko decides to stop working for “World Caramel” and pursues her own ambitions instead. As Goda’s campaign deteriorates he is driven to madness as he refuses to give up, despite Nishi’s attempts to show Goda the absurdity of the entire business and of their loss of identity in this industry. At the climax of the film, Nishi and Goda quarrel with each other. At one point Nishi tells Goda he’s “not even human”, and Goda responds by telling Nishi to “complain to Japan” instead of to him. As Michael Raine explains in his article Modernization Without Modernity, “Nishi is forced to recognize that he cannot desert his mentor and must instead subjugate himself to the company’s demands.” (157-158) In the closing scene, Nishi walks through the streets in a dazed and lifeless manner as he advertises World Caramels in an astronaut suit with a ridiculous toy gun in one hand and a World Caramel flag in another hand.
Masumura’s attempt to liberate the human subject from the mindlessness and madness of capitalism ties in with the ideologies and issues regarding how food is expressed in this film. The fact that caramel is a fairly simple candy, but is backed by an extravagant and complicated business of advertising, says something about not only the food industry but about a capitalist society in general. In reality it is not rare to see corporations launching large-scale campaigns to advertise their food by finding celebrities to endorse their food through posters and commercials. For example Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, a couple of the biggest celebrities in America, shot commercials for Carl’s Jr.’s mediocre fast food. In another current example, Shaun White is the face of Stride gums wintermint flavor, as an effort to kick up Stride gum’s sales. In the film Giants and Toys, “World Caramel” turns Kyoko into a nationally adored celebrity so that she could become the face of their caramels. In sum, the focus on the selling of the caramels overshadow the focus that should be put on enhancing the actual product of the caramel. Today the food industry tends to be this way, instead of enhancing the food product itself, businessmen find creative ways to convince consumers to buy their food – whether it be through clever wordplay in advertisements, or associating a celebrity with their products.