Momoi Halko (桃井はるこ) isn’t your average Japanese idol. First of all, she doesn’t care to hide here age: 32. She also is perfectly comfortable hanging out with the guys chatting about bishoujo games and idols (she’s crazy about Mizuno Aoi). She is one of the most recognizable voices in anime and games, specializing in high-pitched “little sister” types. But her voice in spoken conversation is surprisingly rich. And, despite being the spokeswoman for moe, Momoi is surprisingly ambivalent about the phenomenon.
Momoi is full of surprises. In fact, she didn’t make her magazine debut in gravure, but as a writer. The Tokyo native recalls being totally into computers (her name, Halko, is a reference to HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey”) and coming to Akihabara as a grade schooler. She was a blogger before there were blogs, a novelty that got her the magazine writing gig. When the Net took off, Momoi was in high school (cosplaying as Ayanami Rei and Fujisaki Shiori), and started posting her diary on her homepage.
Her love for Akihabara didn’t wane. In the latter half of the 1990s, she started performing live under the name Moai Halko in Akihabara in an empty field where the UDX Building now stands. A label picked her up, and she made her singing debut with “Mail Me” in 2000 and seiyuu debut with “The Soul Taker” in 2001. Soon after, Momoi became famous for Under 17, among the first units not to use pseudonyms when performing music for bishoujo games. A fanatic following ensued, with a peak in 2004.
Momoi returned to her solo career in 2005, and even performed with techno-pop stars Perfume in 2005. Her voice is everywhere in Akiba; she sings a CM song for doujinshi dealer Toranoana, and the ring theme for moe otaku kick boxer Nagashima Yuichiro.
“He’s great and we hang out a lot,” Momoi says. When asked about his tendency to dress up as bishoujo, Momoi responds, “I think on some level it is the dream of all moe otaku to become women. Moe is like a third sex, a completely different orientation.”
Is that an insult or a compliment? Maybe a little of both. Momoi admits to a time when she was ready to forsake moe. “It was like, ‘The more times you squeak ‘Big brother!’ the better,” she muses. The shift to rock music in “Wonder Momooi” and more adult tones of San from “Seto no Hanayome” were part of that.
However, she started to rediscover her roots in the DVD release “Halko Update” (2007) and her autobiography, “Akihaba Love: I grew up with Akihabara” (2007), and travel abroad, for example Anime Expo in the United States and Connichi in Germany in 2007. “The fans there were so into moe that I started to reconsider it’s value,” Momoi says.
She since founded her own label, Akihaba Love Records, and promote moe at home and abroad. For her, it’s counter culture. It is hard to understand for some people, perhaps vaguely criminal. Despite all the hate, moe fans continue to do their thing. “Isn’t it a little like punk was in England?” asks Momoi, a professed fan of classic punk.
Maybe those perceived connections are why she contributed two tracks to “Pankore: Voice Actresses’ Legendary Punk Songs Collection” in 2009. Seiyuu, especially those associated with moe anime such as Goto Yuko, Shimizu Kaori and Kadowaki Mai sing classic songs of resistance and angst in high-pitched, saccharine sweet, broken English.
Momoi’s interpretation of “Sex and Violence” exemplifies her take on moe. It uses only the English words “sex” and “violence,” which are repeated over and over in cutesy, upbeat tones. At certain intervals, lines are read in Japanese: “Meow! I’m a cat, so it’s OK!” “Big brother!!” “It’s so much fun!” Male Japanese voices (performed by women) can be heard in the background, mumbling in a horny stupor, “Isn’t this awesome?” It’s like Momoi is turning anime from the last 10 years inside out and showing it to us.
Momoi Halko. An otaku. Not a japanese av idol. A seiyuu who knows her place in anime – playing sexy little girls – and actively questions it.