Wrote a review of it on /lit/ a while ago.
Decent enough. The introductory and conclusion essays were slogs. While the essays were largely written from a psychoanalytic standpoint (Saito is a practicing psychoanalyst in the Lacanian tradition), there are portions that almost border on gender studies. I suppose I should’ve expected it more, considering the title of Beautiful Fighting GIRL. The book focuses largely on the prevalence of the “beautiful fighting girl” trope in Japanese media, namely the cute-but-badass heroine who fights evil and is beloved by otaku worldwide. While the beginning and ending essays were less than interesting, some parts in the middle pick up considerably, including a discussion of the word “otaku”. Throughout this book, Saito uses a different definition of the word from others I’ve heard, where it is more commonly referred to an obsessive anime fan (synonymous with “weeaboo”) or just an obsessive fan in general (e.g a train otaku or a guitar otaku). Here, Saito argues that the real definition of an otaku should be one who consistently blurs the lines of fiction and reality, especially when sexual narratives are involved (i.e only a true otaku can get off to stylized representations of pornography, such as hentai). This essay is followed by a series of emails from then-contemporary otaku circa 2000. Further on, there is a summary of Henry Darger’s life, his writing of The Vivian Girls and a thorough psychoanalysis of him. This is by far the best part of the book, it is always enjoyable to read about Henry Darger. Afterwards, Saito discusses the history of the “beautiful fighting girl” in anime, detailing in extreme (and almost painful) detail the multiple shared narratives and forms of the “beautiful fighting girl” in popular Japanese media. I feel like this part of the book would’ve worked better as a multimedia documentary rather than an essay.