Manga Traces: Kate Moss

Kate Moss is an icon, and I don’t mean the clicking kind.  It should come as no surprise that manga artists interested in drawing stylish characters will draw on Moss’ photo shoots for inspiration.

Having just written a post on manga tracing [here], I thought it’d be good to do another with specific examples, kind of a practical post to go along with the theoretical one.  Kate Moss is ideal for this because she’s been traced by different artists, and at least on one occasion, the same photo has been traced by two artists!  Anyone can look and judge for themselves whether these manga artists are adding value to and/or creatively reinterpreting the images of Moss.

Of course, a complete evaluation would require us to read the manga concerned and establish a context.   I’ll point the sources where I know them for those interested.

Let’s start with a photo from the Calvin Klein Obsession ads, shot by Mario Sorrenti in 1994:


Shohjo mangaka Reiko Shimizu drew this for her 1996 manga Magic:


Something curious about this pic.  In the manga, it’s actually meant to be a photograph of a model!

I don’t have any doubt that tracing was involved; if nothing else the bubbles give it away.  The fact that it’s a “fashion photo” could be used by an overeager psychologist to accuse the mangaka of a backhanded confession of guilt [here!  I admit it!  I’m telling it like it is!] or it could mean that Shimizu judged that the original image was intrinsically just that — an image — and that to deny it this nature would dilute its power.

One might also simply chuck this under the heading of PARODY or SATIRE (a la Simpsons), if we believe that Shimizu was banking on her readers making the connection to Moss within the context of modeling in the story…  I don’t know, I’ll let you be the judge.


I first became interested in this issue of tracing while researching the work of Kaoru Fujiwara.  There are at least two photos of Kate Moss (from the CK underwear line) that Fujiwara is known to have traced.  One of them has also been traced by a second artist.  Here’s the original image:


This is one of a series of photos that defined the heroin chic trend in fashion.  Maybe because this trend has become mainstream, I don’t really see anything odd about them.  I’d even say Moss looks healthy.  Anyway, images like these reverberated through the entire artistic realm and Japan, a a vibrant part of this community, imbibed them as well.  Here’s what Fujiwara did for Comickers Fall 2001:


Being somewhat acquainted with Fujiwara’s style, I’m struck by how much it looks like a Fujiwara piece at the same time that, as you can see from the original, the tracing is extremely faithful.  The biggest difference in my opinion would be Fujiwara’s decision to color the fingernails, which changes the mood completely.  Whether for better or worse or what, I’ll let you decide!

Yuki Suetsugu, famous for her Flower of Eden, also made use of this picture.  Suetsugu’s tracing became a big scandal, and she was forced to go on hiatus in 2005.  She returned to the scene two years later.  The source of the scandal was Flower of Eden itself, and besides borrowings from Slam Dunk and other manga there was this:


The image appeared in volume 3 (2001).  I feel almost as if the mangaka told her character: alright, dress up in these clothes and pose in this fashion.  What’s odd (or maybe it’s me that’s odd!!) is that I get the feeling the character didn’t see the originals, she was just obeying the mangaka’s directions.  The result is like and unlike the photo of Moss.

This set of triplets could set off many an aesthetic discussion, I think!


I have still one more example of tracing from Fujiwara I want to bring up.  Here’s the original, another CK ad:


I bear nothing but awe and admiration for a photo like this.  Fujiwara has drawn the following image, of which sadly I know nothing:


Notice how the black line running down the back, the turtleneck, are all practically the same in both pictures!  I find both to be three-toned, although the tones are arranged differently: in the original we have model in gray (face, hands), cloth in black and background in white; in the trace we have model and background in white, model’s hair in gray, cloth in black.  Hmmm…


Apparently a couple of years ago Moss made a deal to bring out her own line of clothing.  When the pieces started coming out there was a bit of an uproar: people complained she was only trotting out stuff from her wardrobe throughout the years.  Some said this was only natural: “if you’re buying Kate Moss clothes it means you want to look like Moss”; others, with a nice dose of irony, accused her of ripping herself off.

What would she think of these traces?

LINKS: Shimizu’s Magic pic can be seen [here].  The Fujiwara pics, with comparisons to the originals are [here] in Japanese [click on the the fourth and fifth links going down on the left side].  The Suetsugu pic is [here] in Japanese.


In my opinion, those interested in studying the peculiar manner in with Japanese culture has interacted with, adopted and recreated Western culture would do well to take a look at Japanese fashion.

~ by Haloed Bane on October 2, 2009.

17 Responses to “Manga Traces: Kate Moss”

  1. I knew about Suegutsu’s case, as it really was a big thing back then (and Eden no Hana was on hiatus!). It’s amazing how shocked people can get about these kinds of things. Not to mention that Inoue was tracing real pictures as well. So what is the big deal?

  2. I can’t help but support these tracings. To me, it just shows a love and admiration for the original image.

  3. I don’t know how Inoue Takehiko’s tracing of NBA magazines fit here, as I though he was tracing/copying journalistic photographs and not advertisements.

    Do you make such a distinction?

    • I don’t see a need to make a distinction, although I think some mangaka have defended their tracing of sports pics on the argument that they don’t have much experience with the sport…reasearch, as it were.

  4. Oh, that’s interesting 🙂 I like the last illustration the most 🙂

  5. Ultimately, it suggests that she’s worthy of being an ideal female form, or the image of female fashion – as such, I don’t see why she would be bothered by it.

    • Yeah, I guess she probably doesn’t care. The hawks -ehem- I mean the agents and publicists around her, though, might have an opinion. And as for the photographers, who knows??

  6. Ahh … Kate Moss. That was the model I keep seeing when I visited those sites. Hmmm … well my assumption is that maybe, like how we draw on the Japanese art, they maybe draw on our art. It is a two way street.

    It isn’t uncommon for the Japanese to like particular aspects of our culture. The guys behind Neon Genesis Eva where later asked “Why did you use so many christian religious symbols?” Their response? “Because they looked cool, we didn’t know what they meant either.”

    Something else to ponder?

    • Indeed, it is a two way street. But re: Evangelion, I believe that they were lying when they said the symbols “just” looked cool…

      • Oho? Do you have a post somewhere expounding on this particular interpretation? :p

        • Nope. I still haven’t blogged Eva. I imagine next year sometime when I do a rewatch 🙂

          • Funny coincidence this, actually. I saw the You Can (Not) Advance trailer and got a massive fanboy hardon (when is that getting a DVD release/sub, anyway?).

            Naturally I decided it was time for a rewatch. And I realised I stil hadn’t seen the Platinum remasters, so I impulse bought this monstrosity.

            Now I stand accused of being the reason Gainax hasn’t done anything interesting for the past umpteen years. 😦

          • That said: TIN MOTHERFUCKING CAN.

            I am a consumer whore and proud of it.

            • Well, that’s an awesome purchase. After all, Hideki Anno is [insert name of your favorite deity here] to the max.

              Consumerism in the right hands is an artform…

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