Best Voice Ever
UNDER17 consists of only two main members, Momoi Haruko (Halko) who does vocals and Koike Masaya (Aniki) who plays guitar and stands around in the background during photo shoots looking cool. I don't know much about either of them except that as a team they produce super upbeat candy coated tunes that are like crack for your ears. They are usually commissioned to make music for anime shows and games, but they have also released several singles on their own, as well as three 'Moe Song' compiliation albums featuring their best denpa work.
What truly separates UNDER17 from other similar groups however,
is Halko. This 27 year old denpa princess has brought a few things
to the group that are invaluable.
The first is the voice. There are no good ways to describe it. Basically, she sounds like she's on helium. What's amazing though is that she does not use voice altering equipment and that her hyper kiddy voice is actually the product of much practice and a bit of natural talent. If you listen carefully enough you can hear the trills, strategically timed voice cracks, and other little things that make you realize she's definitely no amateur to this sort of singing.
The second thing she brings to the group is good publicity. Unlike Kotoko, another great singer in the same field, Halko doesn't restrict herself to just singing. Rather, she goes after anything and everything related to her line of work in order to appeal to potential fans. Prior to her big explosion of fame in the anime-watching-and-bishoujo-game-playing-nerd community, she was already known to a lesser degree by a handful for her semi-successful song "Mail Me", among other things such as through her work hosting radio shows, TV events, and several tech articles (which all appear to be cellphone oriented) in ASCII Magazine. Now she applies the experience and connections gained from these various jobs to continue promoting herself in as many was as possible: doing flawless interviews, making guest appearances on variety shows, co-hosting radio events, and voice acting for many many anime series. After one of the characters she voiced, Komugi-chan took off and became popular with fans, rather than bask in the light of success, she squeezed every last benefit from this opportunity that she could, running everywhere to promote the merchandise and even cosplaying as her own character. By putting herself on display in these public events, she helped UNDER17 gain reputation outside of die-hard dempa fans.
Finally, Halko is undeniable cute. Her baby face and quirky personality always generate a good response, and she knows it. She shamelessly flaunts this, often doing cute "service" poses for photos, breaking into the high pitched voice during interviews, and generally acting crazy. While many in the business who exploit themselves like this are occasionally branded as "too fake," "too underage," or "too fucking gay for anyone to actually admit being a fan of," Halko has somehow managed to get away with it. Consider her audience. When she appeals to even the "elitist anime fag with the 2D-complex who claimed he was above idolizing 'real' people, because nobody can beat Biscuit-tan (yes these people really exist)," there is some magic at work. To many of these people, she is the incarnation of real life "moe", a quality previously found only in fictional anime characters. I don't know how she does it, but I know the Halko charm has affected me as well, and is still spreading to others even as she gets closer to her thirties. Now that's power.
This unique combo is what managed to suck me in. I had never really been a fan of any musical group before until I found out about UNDER17. They have earned my respect and loyalty with just a few catchy songs, an odd voice, a pretty face, and some smart marketing. Thanks, "An~Sebu", your music always makes my day better.
Update: Sadly, UNDER17 broke up in late September 2004, due to
differences between the pair. For what exact reasons,
I'll leave real speculation to those with a better grasp on the Japanese language than
I, since they can read her forums which are an information goldmine on Halko
happenings. Anyway, it was awful nice of them to treat fans to one last big concert.
They also released a third and final "Best" CD, which happens to be loaded with all sorts
of good stuff like "Kyouryuu Shoujo" and "Kujibiki Unbalance." If you're a big fan, I also
suggest picking up a copy of their Final Concert.
The price may seem high, but it is actually fair in my opinion, considering how
much they could have robbed devoted fans on this one. Do yourself a favor and
order a copy before they're all gone.
Listen for Yourself
I suggest everyone to give Momoi Halko a try, just to see if it's
your type of music or not.
Here I have uploaded a six of my favorite
tracks. They are now removed as it is incredibly outdated, and I don't think a fansite like this should be providing downloads in such a way, (exceptions on unpurchasable rare stuff or specific request). Meanwhile, please buy