Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art recently held an exhibition showcasing more than 700 pieces of Mizumaru Anzai’s works including illustrations, advertising posters, and books, among which most are the originals. Viewers could get a good glimpse into his creative and humorous mind. Ever since Anzai passed away in 2014, there have been exhibitions of different scales on his works. His designs are known for the somewhat childish outline and the use of warm and bright color, the texts he wrote are humorous and warm; people of all age groups can easily identify with his works.
Anzai had as well drawn some book covers and illustrations for Haruki Murakami, who described Anzai’s style as “pictures drawn by a primary school child”, but amusingly complements his humorous way of writing. In fact, Murakami found it a blessing to have Anzai’s illustration spicing up his words. The two of them had their first collaboration more than 30 years ago, they were also close friends in their private lives. They would drink and travel together and even openly teased one another.
On the book cover of Murakami Asahido no Gyakushu (Return of the Murakami Asahido), Anzai drew a grumpy Murakami — an extraordinarily simple illustration of a round face, dark hair, two lines of eyebrows, and a thin line extended from one of the eyebrows to make him look like frowning. Regardless of how childlike this illustration is, there are readers who claim to recognize Murakami because of Anzai’s drawing, this makes Murakami sometimes wonder if his facial features are indeed so simple.
Anzai’s contribution to Murakami’s works is not limited to his illustrations. From time to time, Murakami would mention his interaction with Anzai in his books. In his essay collection, Murakami talked about the time when he invited Anzai to draw on the screen panels for his new apartment. Anzai was worried that people might find him unmindful if he finished his work too quickly, therefore, he spent quite some time reading newspaper in the room before actually starting to draw. In the end, he only spent less than 20 seconds to draw the Mount Fuji and fishes. The hilarious thing was that when Murakami’s guests came to visit, they thought those were pudding and dried anchovies.
Mizumaru Anzai fully demonstrated his playful and relaxed attitude through his childlike drawings. They are so comforting to look at and manage to remind people of the importance of having a simple mind because it is not a good habit to over-complicate things.
Anzai was always fond of drawing the random items lying on his desk, one good example would be the snow globe — one of his favorite items and a recurrent subject of his illustrations. As an owner of over a thousand snow globes, Anzai held the title of Honorary President of Snowdome Museum in the Tokyo Setagaya area.
“Zoo” in Murakami’s short story collection Spider Monkey of the Night.