Anime Expo 2007
Halko Momoi Focus Panel

by Jonathan Mays,
Halko Momoi, the reigning “Queen of Akihabara,” was held to the side in the opening minutes of her Sunday morning press panel, but all was forgiven when she raced to the front of the room and squealed, “Ohayo gozaimasu!” As her autograph book made its way around the room, Momoi thanked her audience of about 100 for getting up so early. “I wonder what time everybody went to bed and got up this morning. Thanks for doing that just for me. Will you move this water out of the way?”

She moved quickly to the Q&A session:

“What's it like working with Perfume techno group?”
“I released a limited edition album with them in 1995. But they were very kind and I enjoyed spending time with them. They're still doing their work, so I want to be like them and continue to do my work as well.”

The second fan put Momoi and her management on the defensive:

“I brought you a gift. I woke up at 6 a.m. to get you flowers. I went all over the city because I couldn't find any. I didn't know what color you liked, so I got you pink.”

The fan was asked to save the gift for later, but after he persisted, Momoi asked him to bring it to her table, and she set the bouquet next to her microphone.

Things seemed to return to normal for a moment with the next fan's question:

“How do you find the time to come here when you're working on new anime?”
“We begged and pleaded to be let out of our regular obligations so we could come here. I have my two regular animated shows and four weekly radio appearances, and I had to cancel them all so I could be here. I used to see a lot of requests for me to come to the US on my website. I'm glad I did it.”

Momoi then interrupted herself at about 10:15.

“I have a really important announcement to make. With the situation being what it is, I'm not sure I can do my concert tomorrow. It's because the negotiations haven't been very clear, and I'm afraid things might be delayed and I won't be able to pull things off properly. Up until now I've put my feelings and everything I wanted to say in front of my fans and turned them into song. I think that people here are looking forward to the songs that I have done for anime series. So in order to prepare for tomorrow's concert, I'm sorry, but I have to cancel every other event I'm involved in for the rest of the day. All my staff that came with me from Japan and all of my friends, and all of the volunteers at Anime Expo will be working together to make tomorrow's concert go ahead flawlessly. So I'm sorry that I have to cancel the rest of my appearances today, but I promise that tomorrow' s concert will be excellent. I'll sing my heart out tomorrow, and it'll be a great concert, I promise.”

Momoi's manager continued:

“Please understand that this is not a selfish decision being made by Momoi-san. It's so we can concentrate on bringing the best possible concert tomorrow.”

Momoi: “I want to do a very excellent concert tomorrow and go back to Japan with a smile on my face, and I want to tell everybody in Japan that the American fans were excellent. And I have fans that come with me all the way from Japan. Please be nice to them and be friends with them. They'll show you how to operate glow sticks in the proper Japanese manner. And I noticed that Americans tend to show the delights of the cell phones. But in Japan, cell phones may not be turned on inside the stadium. If you could go to one of these party stores and get a glow stick for my concert, it'd make me very happy.”

The next fan in line did not miss a beat:

“Can you come to Las Vegas?”
“I'll do my best to adjust my schedule. I've been there before, and I had a lot of fun there. I'd love to return. Hopefully I'll see you in Las Vegas next!”
“I couldn't sleep last night because I was going crazy knowing I'd meet you.”
“Don't worry, Japanese fans are crazier than you.”

First time she stopped being a “regular” fan and became a big fan of the culture:
“I'm a lucky woman. I was just a lonely otaku. I used to wander the streets of Akihabara, going to events and buying anime on laserdisc.”

“What was one series that pulled you in?”
“Of those I bought on Laser Disc, probably Lupin III. And I'm big fan of magical girl shows, so Nurse Witch Komugi. When I got the role in Komugi, it was a dream come true. My entry into the industry started when I got a single email in 1999. At the time, not may women in Japan had web pages. It was from a staff member at Tatsunoko Productions who had listened to my radio shows. He suggested I debut in the role of Komugi. Were you able to follow everything?

Favorite character, line:
“'Taiiii-san!' Alice was always having interesting conversations. I really liked the interaction between Jade and myself.”

Taking on new musical challenges:
“I've always wanted to do some harder music, but in order to preserve my Under 17 identity, it was hard for me to do more challenging music. But even though I've wanted to do harder music, I still like anime songs. That's why I was able to do Wonder Momoi.”

“Do you have any favorite doujinshi artists? And which was your favorite Lupin?”
“That's a good question. I do have some favorite doujinshi artists. In Japan, the border between doujinshi artists and professional manga artists is sort of obscured. So if I had to pick a working pro who does doujinshi, I'd have to the character designer of Soul Taker and Okama-san, with whom I was able to have an interview in the Yomiuri paper. I have so many other favorites. I like Magari, He's the original artists of Tsukune-chan. I seem to play roles named after food. His art is so cute that I have him doing my CD jackets.

“The original Lupin was not a very nice person. I grew up watching red jacket Lupin. When I saw the original, it was a shock to me. I like the green jacket Lupin from the TV series, but the ones that Miyazaki did, he's too nice in them, so I have a tough time with them. And I don't like the way Fujiko is portrayed in such an older woman role. She's a sacred Madonna in my eyes. So I guess I have to go with red jacket as my favorite.”

A fan in a maid costume approaches the microphone:
“I never thought I'd be welcomed by a maid in America! Aren't there a lot of real maids in America?
“I have a popular video—“
“I thought you were a girl for a second.”
“So you have a video of yourself singing a song?”
“No, I make Piko-Piko music. One of my remixed was a famicon version of one of your songs.”
“On YouTube? I think it's a really good thing to do something you like and release it on the Internet. The Piko-Piko animation is very popular in Japan. But since everybody seems to ignore copyright laws, it's becoming a problem.”
“Stage 2 of your famison just came out. Will you make a Stage 3? I'd like to work on one of your tracks.”
“Sounds good. Please e-mail my office. Make you put in the subject: 'I'm the maid that you saw in America.'”

Favorite thing to cosplay:
“Hmm…that's tough…depending on how I'm feeling, my opinion changes. I decide on that day what cosplay I want to do. On the Saigo no Rokku track, I wanted the image of a maid who was badly beaten, so I wore a torn up costume. The blue sailor suit that you saw me on stage last night was similar to the Nanako SOS series. I wanted my jacket art to bring back the feeling of taking pictures in Akiba.

“Instead of cosplay, I've turned this into a conversation about outfits. I guess if I had to choose…Komugi-chan. And since I'm working on a new series, I'd like to cosplay as the character San.”

Her first live performance:
“First of all, I was an idol fan. I never thought I'd actually become one. The otaku that were around me would show their fandom in their own way. And for me to show my fandom was to sing. Some of my otaku friends make doujinshi. But I can't draw, so the only way I can show my otaku-ness regarding idols was to sing the songs myself. And the first time people heard a song I made, I was happy that people accepted my fandom.
“But the happiness I felt then for my first live…I've done tens, dozens of lives now, but my feelings never change. Nothing makes me happier than to have people made happy by my songs. So tomorrow's concert, I'll perform it like it was my first time, so please come.”

2nd cover song album:
“It just came out—I'm surprised you've already heard of it. Right now there are no plans for another CD, but there were a lot of songs that I didn't get a change to put on it. I think I'll concentrate on doing my songs next, but when I feel like doing another cover, I'll do it. So when I decide to do it, I want to hear from everybody what you'd like me to do, so think about it. There might be some cover songs on my own.

“I do Internet radio shows, so you can listen through the US. If there's something you want to hear, e-mail me about it. I do the Seto no Hanayome show and the Chou Momoi show.

“I'm sorry I've been taking so long to answer.”

Momoi indulged the next fan, who asked her to say “Luuuuke-sama” and “Bu-buuu” in character.

“Will you perform with the Power Glove tomorrow?”
“Of course!”

Her role in Kamen Rider:
“One of the staff members that came with me is on Kamen Rider as well. I often watch it after staying up all night on Sunday mornings. I'm going to be Momo-tarus, but people have been calling it Momoi-tarus.”

“When you first started on debut role, what was first thing in your mind—were you nervous, did you worry you wouldn't be as appreciated as you'd want to be?”
“My first role was playing Komugi in Soul Taker…I'd never done anything like it before. I was so nervous that I'd blow my line when it came up. All the veteran voice actors around me gave me advice and treated me kindly. Having been in numerous shows, thinking back to the way I was back then, I think I've come a long way. I'm still grateful, even today, for the kindness that they showed me today.”

Momoi closed the panel by thanking the audience for their support and encouraging them to attend her Monday morning concert.

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