When she's not on-stage dressing up in costume and play-acting one of her many roles as an anime voice actress, baby-faced idol Haruko Momoi (born in Tokyo on December 14, 1977) can be seen dressing up in school uniform in the heart of Tokyo's electronics and gaming district Akihabara to promote her latest volume of memoirs. Little surprise, then, that this voice actress and singer of anime and video game songs has gained a following among the anime-obsessed males in Japan and beyond. As befits an idol popular with the Akiba-kei generation (a term that literally means "Akihabara style" and refers to young adult men interested in manga, character figures, and video games as well as idols), Halko Momoi first gained a profile on the Internet in the late '90s, keeping an online diary when she was a high-school girl. A magazine editor discovered the diary and promptly gave Halko a column, for which she would take on the pen name Moai Halko. While a student at Tokyo's Tokai University, Halko (inspired by HAL 9000, the onboard computer of the Discovery spaceship in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) started performing live guerilla street shows in the youth mecca district that is Harajuku, and in Akihabara. It wasn't long before she was performing at road show-type "talk lives" across Tokyo, idol events slavishly attended by enthusiasts of cosplay and the voice actors of anime films and TV series.
Halko's music career began in earnest in 2000 with her major-label debut single, "Mail Me" (released on King Records), and coincided with her dropping out of the university. Sion Sono, director of the cult 2002 cult mystery flick and fan-boy favorite Suicide Girls, helmed the single's video. While the song was only a minor hit, Halko quickly became dubbed "the Queen of Akihabara," a reference to J-pop singer Shiina Ringo, who two years earlier had scored a big hit in Japan with the single "Queen of Kabukicho," another area of Tokyo, although the two share no musical common ground whatsoever. Halko made her voice-acting debut in 2001 in the violent animated TV series The Soul Taker as the 17-year-old saucer-eyed hospital nurse Komugi, still her best-known role to date. A part in the Japanese animated television series Final Fantasy Unlimited, among other roles, followed. At roughly the same time that she became an in-demand voice actor, in 2002 Halko also formed the group Under17, a duo that paired bespectacled Halko's helium-voiced vocals (this won't be a surprise to anyone who has seen an anime to which Halko has added her voice) with the over the top guitar playing of Masaya Koike and a supercharged electronic backing, the de rigueur style of music made to accompany Japanese anime and video games.
The group broke up in 2004, shortly after the release of Best Album 3: Soshite Densetsu He..., playing a farewell live show at Yokohama Blitz in November in which Halko bowed out by leaving her glasses on stage at the end of the concert. With Halko presenting radio shows and penning cell phone-related articles in addition to her voice-acting roles, she was well established to restart her solo career and find a fan base beyond the Akiba-kei hardcore. Halko's debut solo album, momo-i quality, was released on the Avex label in August 2006, a collection of theme songs from various animation productions. The beginning of 2007 saw a flurry of activity, including the release of Halko's memoirs, AkihabaLOVE -- Akihabara to Isshoni Otona Ni Natta (I Became an Adult Along with Akihabara). Another collection of mainly older material, Up Date Songs Best, preceded the release of Famison8Bit, eight-bit versions of old (some very old) and more recent anime theme songs, in March 2007 and another voice role in a television anime, Seto No Hanayome. ~ David Hickey