Many people who go to watch this experimental film are probably expecting an anime. However... This is not an anime... It's a work of abstract art and is in of itself something that you can not get if you don't study art or do not have an avant-garde artistic sense. If you don't understand either of them, don't rate it. It's like trying to get a pop lover to rate the works of Stockhausen. They are two completely different things.
It's obvious that this is very well crafted. People confuse abstract with complicated ideas, but this is a very straight forward portrayal of love
and the development of that emotion over time.
The fact that someone can grasp that idea or even convey it without dialogue(plus this being 1962) is quite a big feat. Still... no emotional attachment so you can't really call it a good story.
Judging it by today's art or story telling standard is illogical since this work does not go by any conventional standards. However, there really isn't anything special that I can see in the art. Characters are probably representational of something as is set design, but it's too distant too interpret for me. It gets a 5 since I know it exists, but Kuri failed to make it apparent to anyone but himself.
The sound is the most fascinating part(and it was not done by Yoko Onno, but instead the experimental composer Toru Takemitsu). To explain what's so fascinating about the sound track is to explain experimental music altogether(look up musique concrete).
More understandable is the reverb and other effects added to the word Ai. This is very much a representation of the situation that the two "characters" are in and in effect tells the viewer the story and the characters emotions.
This is most subjective, but if you have a minimal interest in avant-garde art a 7 is about right. Hardcore fans will go on to give everything a 10 and most others probably a 1 or a 2.
It seems fairly obvious that, if your interest in japanese animation is limited to the standard repetition of your daily moe or shounen or shoujo or whatever, you should just ignore any of Yoji Kuri's work. Seriously, just like you ignore the newest exhibits at your local art gallery (or any sort of intellectual activity, probably). It's not that hard, just let it go. If, however, you have a thing for the exploring of animation as a rich, viable art media and favour having your senses stimulated in a more intricate showing of themes, Ai will be a delight.
Saying it is simple, "lo-fi" or indie
would be an understatement; although these are the words that best describe it. 4 or so minutes of a tom and jerry sort of ordeal that works as a metaphor for the different reactions to love ("ai", the only word present in the dialogue) by a man and a woman. The dubbing is haunting and works perfectly for the minimalist arthouse aesthetic Yoji Kuri is going for here. Even though it is highly symbolic and the main theme is discussed through a distilled sort of subconscious, the short is quite straight to the point. All the actions relate to familiar metaphors used to depict relationships, so it's always easy to know what they're talking about. The technique is hectic, with weird continuity and terrible animation, and it doesn't seem to have been done this way on purpose. But these are visual elements that fit the childlike quirkiness of Ai. This is "outsider anime", if there even is such a thing.
Just really, really creepy. If having your mind crawled on by spiders is what you're into, go for it. But with terrible art, terrible voice acting, two plain and stereotypical characters, and a terrible story (was there even a story?), the four-minute-long anime (can it be called an anime?) was almost unwatchable. I counted the seconds.
The best part about this anime? It was only four minutes long. Seriously, I hated it.