Giants and Toys: Caramel Laborers

In the 1958 Japanese comedy movie Giants and Toys directed by Yasuzo Masumura, a depiction of the time when Japan was going through a massive economic growth is captured. Alongside the rapid economic burst in Japan, the evolution of the resulting corporate culture is also satirized. Through the film, Masumura highlights a candy company’s competition against two other rival businesses over the sale of caramel. In fact, the mass production of the caramels goes beyond the direct means of profit and consumer satisfaction, but also symbolizes one of the main foundations that serviced the initiation of the economic surge: Japan’s work force. Clearly, the chase for the dominance of caramel sales between the three companies’ is a corruptive force in the Japanese society, and can even be traced to the examination of the what the ‘caramel’ really is.

The opening scene of Masumura’s Giants and Toys displays workers all striding in the street in a monotonous fashion. All the workers seamlessly blend in together to a point where no unique individuals can be identified. Even Yousuke, an employee of the World candy company manages to disappear as a long shot of the whole crowd develops. This dull parade of workers represents the same monotonous appearance of the massive amounts of products, specifically caramels, which are being produced in the factories. In addition, these consumer goods are being produced by the same exact workers that are marching in this scene of the movie. The workers are all alike, just like the caramels.

Marching clone-like workers

Marching clone-like workers

Although the workers are human, during the economic boom in Japan, they were hardly considered to be so by the corporate bosses as the workers only service was to benefit the profit and success of the company. The corporate bosses are not too concerned with the wellbeing of their workers. Yousuke progresses during the film by becoming a loyal employee to the World candy company, and even he gets overlooked as World’s mascot girl, Kyoko reaches celebrity status. Accordingly, Kyoko is also objectified as her purpose is only to boost the sale of the caramel candy, just like all the other employees working for World. There is no individualism present under the perspective of the corporate bosses, only the success of the company

Mindset of corporate leaders

Mindset of corporate leaders

The caramels being made in the factories are very simply made. This also means that more of the product can be made and the profit of the sale is high because the cost to make the caramels is low as the main ingredients in the caramel include sugar, milk and butter. The low-cost caramels further the representation of the workforce because the workers are treated as if they were of low importance. Workers can be replaced at any point and with little hesitation from the corporate leaders. This change into the objectification of the workers all appeared in the Japanese society due to the corruptive impact of the growing economy, and is important to notice that before, workers were treated differently when labor was not centralized in cities and businesses.

Caramel laborers

Caramel laborers

Masumura’s depiction of the corporate culture in Japan during the immense economic expansion features the objectification of the workers that serviced the companies’. The objectification of the workers is even linked to the caramels that were being produced in the factories, as both worker and caramel are placed in terms of mass quantity with no independent or individual features at all. Interestingly enough, the pair of caramel and worker, although disparate in many ways, are similar in treatment, and for all wrongful reasons.


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