Pas de Sortie: Cul-de-Sac in Japanese Business

19 years from 1954 to 1973 in Japanese History are known as ‘Japanese post-war Economic Miracle”. The rapid economic growth during this period brought Japan to the 2nd place of world GDP ranking; this growth from burnt-out country to the center of the economy was what world referred as ‘miracle’. Some argued that the Japanese ‘hard-working’ and ‘one for all’ spirits were the basis of this growth. While contributing the to the growth of the company, business, and the country Japan, there are also criticisms that such Japanese business custom, that still have a strong influence on nowadays Japan had created the habit of the company to sacrifice humanity in order to maximize profits. In the movie ‘Giants and Toys’, the director Yasuzo Masumura shows the devaluation of humanity in Japanese business culture by using the comparison between two characters Nishi and Kyôko, and also expresses that there is no way to get out of this culture if you were living in this country.

In the beginning of the film Nishi, the new employee in World Caramel, seems to fit in the business culture. For example, the scene right after the title role shows Nishi within a mass number of office workers wearing the same suits and walking in the same direction those seem like an army marching. The opening music with violent lyrics also contributes to the image of Japanese workers as unified army. Nishi shows his qualities and knowledge as a businessperson mainly by treating the newcomer in the business world, Kyôko as ignorant. While Nishi is, or at least he thinks himself is, suited in the business culture, he still has faith in his friendship with Yokoyama. They make a promise with each other to retain their friendship regardless of their rivalry between their companies. However, their friendship ends when betrays Nishi and steals Kyôko away from World Caramel. When Kyôko’s dehumanization, corruption of friendship with Yokoyama, and Gôda’s greed hematemesis all add up, and disillusion Nishi, Nishi determines to escape from the dehumanized business world. He takes off his suit, or his uniform and changes to the space suit, that shows alienation and security from the others. However, as Gôda says ‘There is nowhere you could escape; this is Japan’, Nishi’s attempt to escape from the business world ends up to be seen as a campaign for World Caramel since he is wearing the space suit with the World Caramel Flag. The creepy smile he shows perhaps implies that Nishi would go back to World Caramel after all.

On the other hand, Kyôko, who was an innocent lively girl alienated from harsh survival game in the concrete jungle, loses her humanity as she increases her populartity and become more capitalized. The decline of her humanity is shown through the death of her tadpoles, the symbol of her humanity or innocence. The first tadpole, Yûchan, dies when she first appered on magazine. At this point, Kyôko notices her tadpole’s death and cares about it. However, her last tadpole dies, which is also when she starts to star in TV commercials, only her former co-workers notice the death of the tadpole. This scene creates a strong association of Kyôko’s success with the decline of humanity by showing the TV screen with the tadpole can. The following scenes emphasize the contrast with dreamful success and harsh reality. The scene in which Gôda and Harukawa watching TV and the scene in which Nishi and the ex-star watching Kyôko both shows that there is a cruel survival race behind the capitalism success. While tadpoles show the decline of humanity, the changes of Kyôko’s clothes show her degree of capitalization. At first, she is wearing casual somewhat low-classy clothes. As she became famous, she starts to wear accessories, wears a dress when she asks Nishi to go out for shopping. After her affection, the last thing which kept her innocent, was rejected by Nishi, she metamorphose into a ‘celebrity’ by dying her hair, wearing a snobbish clothes and earrings, and smoking.

In conclusion, Masumura shows dehumanization through two perspectives Kyôko as a subject, and Nishi as an observer. Moreover, the ending scene in which Nishi also became a subject of dehumanization, Masumura creates a feeling of a Japanese business culture as a cul-de-sac one could not get out.

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Nishi as an office worker army member

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Kyôko’s last tadpole dies while her co-workers are watching her TVCM

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 Dream in the TV screen and Reality

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Shadow of the TV world

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Metamorphosis from ‘Imo’ girl to a Star

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Nishi’s Rebellion: Nowhere to go


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