Giants and Toys
Giants and Toys is a sharp and snappy corporate satire revolving around the ruthless machinations of a group of admen working in the confectionary industry.
As a new recruit to the marketing department of World Caramel, fresh-faced graduate Nishi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi) is eager to impress his ambitious and hard-nosed boss Goda (Black Test Car’s Hideo Takamatsu), even if it strains his relationships with his college friend Yokoyama (Koichi Fujiyama) and budding love interest Masami (Michiko Ono), who work at the rival companies of Giant and Apollo. With World’s lead over its competitors slipping badly, the two spot a chance to get back in the race in the shape of the pretty but unsophisticated 18-year-old, Kyoko (Hitomi Nozoe). Goda and Nishi get to work polishing this rough diamond as their new campaign girl, but as the three rival confectionary companies pitch themselves into an all-out advertising war that spills out onto the streets of Tokyo as it escalates to ludicrous extremes, Kyoko’s newfound fame starts going to her head.
Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut, this lurid adaptation of the award-winning 1957 novel by Ken Kaiko is considered a landmark in Japanese film history and a key work by Yasuzo Masumura (Blind Beast, Red Angel), one of the country’s most highly acclaimed directors of his generation. Its absurdist and acidly cynical take on the excesses of the media and advertising worlds recalls the work of Frank Tashlin (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?), as it presents a garish vision of a bold new postwar Japan where traditional company values come head-to-head with American-style consumer capitalism.
Arrow Video brings Yasuzo Masumura’s Giants and Toys to Blu-ray, presenting the film on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.
Arrow is using a high-definition master supplied to them by Kadokowa, performing further restoration work themselves. It looks like they are working from an older master scanned from a later generation print, yet despite that the presentation has turned out remarkably well. Though not consistent, the image mostly retains a nice film look, rendering the rather heavy grain levels splendidly enough. Details are generally sharp and pleasing, and the textures of objects come through cleanly.
The film’s colours are a bit pasty and pale, though this isn’t atypical of the time, and I assume its Fujicolor. Still, they're saturated well most of the time and there are some wonderful pops of red and blue. There are a few sequences where saturation levels appear to drop and the image has a far more “washed” look to it, in turn making the grain a bit noisier and throwing off black levels. Outside of those instances black levels are mostly fine, they can be just a bit strong and suck up shadow detail because of it. Still, they’re mostly inky, and don't impact the picture all that much.
The further restoration work Arrow has done appears to have paid off because I don’t recall much ever popping up in relation to damage, just a few marks here and there. In all, the image is quite clean and keeps that a decent photographic look in the process. It’s an impressive looking presentation, all things considered.
(For this article I have kept the screen grabs full-resolution, but have converted them from PNG to JPG files to conserve space. While I feel they should still offer a good idea around general quality, they should not be used as reference material.)
The included Japanese monaural soundtrack (delivered in single-channel DTS-HD MA audio) is clean but a bit harsh, even ear-piercingly so at times. In general, dialogue and music are one note with a bit of an edge, but when music or other sounds get louder that edge gets quite a bit sharper, and this aspect is more than likely present in the original elements. I assume the only option to fix this would have been to filter out the noise, but then that would have more than likely flattened the track.
Clean-up is good, though, as—outside of some background noise—I never noted any heavy damage or drops.
Arrow puts together an impressive little special edition with this title, starting things off with an incredible audio commentary by scholar Irene González-López. Things start off a bit rough as I had to wonder if she was just going to reiterate what was going on onscreen, but then it becomes apparent she’s just priming you up for the frantic pace of the film, building up to start tackling the film’s satirical elements, most of which will be brought through the imagery. This leads to discussion around the story and how its characters represent this specific period in corporate Japan, desconstructing the editing and stylistic choices made throughout. She also segues away from the film itself—when she can! —to compare the film to some of Masumura’s other work and to contextualize things, or throw in information she has been able to pick up around the film, like how Masumura was influenced by Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, which is now so obvious I'm disappointed for not picking up on it initially. The film is very fast paced and González-López throws out an incredible amount of information around the film, keeping up beautifully and never missing a beat. A lot of this also has to do with the editing, which is quite incredible when you really stop and listen to how it moves from one topic to another, with the editing managing to match the rhythms of the film. It’s an amazing track and one of the better ones I’ve listened to in recent memory.
Feeling that wasn’t enough (I guess) Arrow also provides a short 10-minute introduction featuring Tony Rayns along with a 20-minute video essay by Earl Jackson called In the Realm of the Publicist. Rayns shares some backstory around the production and touches on aspects that were innovative within the film for the time. Jackson’s essay examines the film’s representation of the corporate climate in post-war Japan and goes over the structure of certain sequences, making a nice addendum to the commentary.
The disc then closes with a trailer for the film and then a gallery featuring production photos and DVD art. The included booklet (limited to the first pressing) then features a lengthy essay by Michael Raine, covering the film and its exaggerated elements, Masumura, the Daiei studio, and everything in between. The booklet then closes with a filmography listing out his films as director along with a few where he worked as assistant director.
In the end it doesn’t appear to be a jam-packed edition, but the commentary alone manages to add a substantial amount of value to this release.
A highly recommended release. Despite what looks like an older master Arrow does wonders with the presentation, and the included audio commentary is one of the best ones I’ve listened to in recent memory.