Tadpoles and Space Suits

In the 1950s, Japan was experiencing a rapid economic growth and the side effects that followed. Giants and Toys, a movie directed by Yasuzo Masumura in 1958, is a satirical film that criticizes the destructive force of Japan’s mass-production and the emphasis on growth and progress during the 1950s. The film achieves this purpose by juxtaposing two opposing themes such as Kyoko and Nishi, and space suit and tadpoles.

In the movie, the space suit represents progress and growth, for space exploration is an idea that looks far ahead into the future. The tadpoles also evoke a sense of progress and potential for growth, but much slower, and requiring close, personal care. Likewise, Kyoko represents the fast-growing Japanese economy fueled by big corporates and mass production, while Nishi’s character stands for the general public and the working class, struggling to keep up with the rapid developments and changes. In the movie, after Kyoko puts on a space suit and becomes a star of the World Company, two tadpoles end up dying. This dying of the tadpoles, which used to contribute to her humble image is a metaphor to how Kyoko’s naiveté and uniqueness was lost in her pursuit of success, and her joining of the corporate world.

Harukawa, the photographer, is telling the journalists Kyoko is just like any other girl, except the fact that she keeps tadpoles.

Harukawa, the photographer, is telling the journalists Kyoko is just like any other girl, except the fact that she keeps tadpoles.

Kyoko is on television in a space suit, while people comment on how she has changed.

Kyoko is on television in a space suit, while people comment on how she has changed.

Kyoko is a very dynamic character that undergoes many changes. In the beginning, she is a humble girl who is in love with Nishi and takes care of her brothers and sisters. As the plot develops, she slowly turns into one of the mass-produced stars, by imitating other stars and consciously trying to act like one of them; she is forced to read off the script that is given to her, and to lie about her sick father. Towards the end, she is very aware of what other stars do, and she actively tries to fit herself into that role of a star.

Kyoko tells Nishi that she wants to learn music and jazz like the others.

Kyoko tells Nishi that she wants to learn music and jazz like the others.

As Kyoko becomes more successful, she starts to lose her old character and her character begins to match her public image and her role as a star. She even rejects Nishi whom she loved and chooses his friend who promises her of wealth and success as a star. Her naiveté is lost, and as she adapts to the business world, she becomes just like any other mass-produced products, even like the caramels that she wanted to sell.

The CEO compares the people to caramels, the expendable, identical, mass-produced goods

The CEO compares the people to caramels, the expendable, identical, mass-produced goods

On the other hand, Nishi is a character that has just recently joined the World Company and when he becomes close to his boss Goro, there is some hope of success for him. His work constantly interferes with his personal life, however, forcing him to make love to Kyoko and costing his friendship. Unlike Kyoko, he continues to reject Kyoko and the company ends up losing her, and naively trusts his friend. At the end he tries to quit his job and turns very bitter towards the corporate life. In the ending scene, he wanders on the street wearing a space suit, trying to fit into the society and act his role as a worker. However, compared to Kyoko he does not smile, and looks very out-of-place, and people pass by laughing at him.

Both Kyoko and Nishi’s character help to illustrate how the corporate world can affect individuals in either way. Kyoko is a character that chose to conform to the demands of the society and in turn she loses her unique and humble character. Nishi chooses to reject his role and he has fallen behind, and people laugh at him wearing a spacesuit on the street. Using these two opposing characters, the director tries to demonstrate a common theme of how Japan’s growing economy and corporate culture are negatively affecting people.

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