OVA stands for original video animation that is NOT broadcasted on either television or cinema. It is usually an episode or a short series of episodes that follow the original series that they’re based on.
These are usually filler episodes made purely for entertainment purposes or they released prior to the next season of a series.
They are made for television-based formats rather than cinema-oriented formats. These are usually used for promotional purposes and to create hype for the second season of the series.
History of OVA
The first OVA to ever be released was in the early 1980s. It was called The Green Cat by Ovamu Tezukar in 1983.
However, whether to consider it the first complete series or not is still up in the air. The VHS tapes were made immediately available, but there’s no evidence that the series was completed.
Companies quickly accepted the format and ideas and the Japanese market was flooding with OVAs by the mid-1980s. As the market faced ups and downs, particularly downs in the 1990s, so did the OVAs.
Since it requires more of a budget than a regular anime episode it has always been more vulnerable to ups and downs in the market.
Many anime television series adopted a different approach. They started making 13 episode series instead of 26 episode series.
However, from the year 2000 and beyond, OVAs started making a comeback. Producers decided to release a few episodes on television and release some as OVAs to generate additional income and also gave them the creative freedom to invest and convey important moments of the series with apt drama and payback.
It also avoided a lot of broadcast issues with content. Thus, even if the whole series couldn’t be categorized as OVA, these specific episodes can be.
OVA is not aired in cinemas or on television before. They are specifically made to be watched on home television formats.
They mostly are popularized in the form of VHS tapes, Blu-rays, and DVDs.The major difference between an OVA episode and a regular anime episode is that OVAs are generally not standalone unless they are testing the waters for a new anime series.
They are based on, a continuation of or a shortened storyline would better animation quality and a higher budget.
An anime episode is a primary ingredient of what progress is the series forward, while an OVA, does more of an auxiliary job of creating hype and increasing viewership across various platforms while making sure to increase the reach to the maximum.
Are they canon?
The canonicity of an OVA is kinda sorta debatable. Most series have a canon OVA but there is no guarantee in the canonicity.
A canon OVA can be considered as a filler episode and be skipped if you please. A non-canon OVA will often be an irrelevant tangent storyline that can be understood if one knows the basic anime, but will not affect the series in the slightest way. These can also be skipped and it wouldn’t have any effect on the story.
The reason why a lot of producers prefer OVA over the original television series is that there is less content restriction, the target audience, and a higher designated budget for the production of an OVA.
What is their purpose?
The, in general, main motive of an OVA is to make more money and to popularize the franchise even more.
It can also be used to test run an anime to see how it will perform with the intended audience. It is not strange for an OVA series to become a mainstay independent anime series.
For eg: Tenchi Muyo! Started off as an OVA series but later went on to have an anime, several movies, and even a number of spin-offs!
OVAs allow for a much more faithful depiction of the source manga or light novels. The censorship of OVA is much looser than the ones for or a mainstay television series since it is completely up to the consumer whether to buy the DVD or not.
Once the DVD is rated accordingly and an advisory word is mentioned, an OVA has the freedom to portray a much more dark, violent, or even fan service.
This makes it much more appealing to an audience that has already when a part of the journey of the source material.
OVAs allow the depiction of fan service and the portrayal of darkness doesn’t have to be diluted or subtler.
OVA often has exclusive content like side stories, music videos, and bonus episodes that are not found in the regular anime series.
How are they different from ‘Specials’?
Specials are episodes that are produced yearly and have a length of almost double that of a regular episode to that of a movie which is about 1-2 hours.
‘Specials’ technically are still episodes, which means they would be broadcasted on television and in cinema theatres. OVAs are exclusively DVDs, VHS tapes, and Blu-rays.
Apart from these, there isn’t a particular difference between a ‘special’ episode and an ‘OVA’.
How long are the episodes?
OVA episodes do not have a restricted length but usually hit the regular 30-minute mark. They are also not obliged to all be of the same length.
Many OVA series episodes of varying length range from 30 minutes to about an hour or two long episodes, like a movie.
Who is the target audience?
According to a 2004 news release by Bandai Visual, over 50% of the OVA DVDs were brought by male anime enthusiasts within the age range of 25 to 40 years while only 13% were females from all age groups.
Since this is the major source of income that comes from this sector, OVAs are designed for this target audience. There are some OVAs that specifically target the female audience but these are exceptions and quite the rarity.
Problems with OVAs:
OVAs can function as an addition to a particular series or measure an audience for a specific series if it were to be made into an anime. The only problem OVAs present is with sales and money invested.
A fairly large amount of money is invested into making an OVA even if it is just a single episode. Depending on the sales, the future of this OVA or mini-series is to be decided.
An OVA series can often be cut short or abandoned if it doesn’t make enough sales required for the next parts to be produced.
As great as OVAs are in terms of their animation, quality, and even content, they really are affected by the number of sales and finance becomes a single deciding factor to whether the next parts can be produced or not.
This often leads the existing customers and fans of the OVA to become frustrated if a mini-series is abandoned halfway through without any sort of closure to the series.
Such problems are solved by creating a stand-alone single episode OVA and making a series out of such OVAs which is known as a ‘one-shot OVA series’, where every episode is independent but also plays into the series.
How long are they?
They do not have a specified length on their own.
There are single-episode OVAs as well and they can range to a multiple-episode series as well.
The longest OVA series ever known in anime featured 110 episodes and 52 Gaiden episodes for the anime Legend of Galactic Heroes.
Tell us about your favorite anime and OVA series in the comments below!