After a somewhat protracted hiatus and recovery period, we are happy to be back in the digital flesh with the newly translated book by Saitō Tamaki, Beautiful Fighting Girl. Published in English this year with the University of Minnesota Press, Saitō's original Japanese text released in 2000 was pivotal in shaping the decade of scholarship to come on otaku culture.
The significance of the book as a genealogy of the eroticised fighting girl theme in East Asian media, and particularly Japanese animation, may now be seen as somewhat dated given the rapid expansion of the convention, the growing tendency towards intertextual and parodic play within (and without) the anime medium and the increasingly experimental blending of genre, type and character. However, Saitō's final analysis of the economy of sexual desire involved in the Japanese otaku-animated character relationship - set against the backdrop of a furiously evolving motif of the beautiful fighting girl and interwoven with his strangely self-revealing analysis of the outsider art of Henry Darger - climaxes in an almost cinematic manner. Identifying a Japanese environment oversaturated with media codes to the detriment of depth and multiplicity of meaning, Saitō non-critically positions otaku sexuality as a powerful adaptive strategy for negotiating the realities of an informationalised world.
"For us who live this fantasy of an informationalized everyday, there is nothing at all surprising about the existence of something like a fiction more real than reality ... When our desire comes into contact with these spaces, it comes naturally to us to boot up the beautiful fighting girls. I am trying to read into this process an unintended inversion of desire. Why is it that we are so captivated by these phallic girls who will never exist in actuality? Are they not a strategy for resisting the informationalization of society, in other words, the flattening fictionalization of the entire world?"