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, abbreviated as OVA and sometimes as OAV (original animation video), are
Japanese animated
Japanese animated
films and series made specially for release in
home video Home video is prerecorded media sold or Video rental shop, rented for home viewing. The term originates from the VHS and Betamax era, when the predominant medium was videotapes, but has carried over to optical disc formats such as DVD and Blu-ra ...
formats without prior showings on television or in theaters, though the first part of an OVA series may be broadcast for promotional purposes. OVA titles were originally made available on
VHS VHS (Video Home System) is a for consumer-level on tape . From the 1950s, video recording became a major contributor to the television industry, via the first commercialized s (VTRs). At that time, the expensive devices were used only i ...
, later becoming more popular on
LaserDisc
LaserDisc
and eventually
DVD The DVD (common abbreviation for Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc) is a digital Digital usually refers to something using digits, particularly binary digits. Technology and computing Hardware *Digital electronics Digital elect ...

DVD
. Starting in 2008, the term OAD (original animation DVD) began to refer to DVD releases published bundled with their source-material
manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

manga
.


Format

Like anime made for television broadcast, OVAs are sub-divided into episodes. OVA media (tapes,
laserdisc
laserdisc
s or DVDs) usually contain just one episode each. Episode length varies from title to title: each episode may run from a few minutes to two hours or more. An episode length of 30 minutes occurs quite commonly, but no standard length exists. In some cases, the length of episodes in a specific OVA may vary greatly, for example in '' GaoGaiGar FINAL'', the first 7 episodes last around 30 minutes, while the last episode lasts 50 minutes; the OVA ''
Key the Metal Idol is a Japanese original video animation , abbreviated as OVA and sometimes as OAV (original animation video), are Japanese animated films and series made specially for release in home video Home video is prerecorded video media sold ...
'' consists of 15 separate episodes, ranging in length from 20 minutes to nearly two hours each; The OVA ''
Hellsing Ultimate ''Hellsing'' (stylized as ''HELLSING'') is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kouta Hirano. It was serialized in ''Young King OURs'' from May 1997 to September 2008. The series chronicles the efforts of the mysterious and s ...
'' had released 10 episodes, ranging from 42 minutes to 56 minutes. An OVA series can run anywhere from a single episode (essentially a direct-to-video movie) to dozens of episodes in length. The longest OVA series ever made, ''
Legend of the Galactic Heroes , sometimes abbreviated as ''LOTGH'', ''LOGH'' or in Japanese, is a series of science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a of which typically deals with and futuristic concepts such as adv ...
'', spanned 110 main episodes and 52
gaiden In media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Broadcast media, communicat ...
episodes. Many popular series first appear animated as an OVA, and later grow to become television series or movies. ''
Tenchi Muyo! is a Japanese anime, light novel and manga franchise. The original series began with a six-episode Original video animation, OVA called created by Masaki Kajishima and directed by Hiroki Hayashi, and released in Japan on September 25, 1 ...
'', for example, began as an OVA but went on to spawn several TV series, three movies, and numerous other spin-offs. Producers make other OVA releases as sequels, side stories, music-video collections, or bonus episodes that continue existing as television series or films, such as ''
Love Hina Again is a Japanese manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectan ...
'' and ''
Wolf's Rain ''Wolf's Rain'' (stylized in uppercase as ''WOLF'S RAIN'') is a Japanese television series created by writer and produced by . It was directed by and featured character designs by with a soundtrack produced and arranged by . It focuses on ...
''. OVA titles generally have a much higher budget per episode than in a television series; therefore the technical quality of animation can generally surpass that in television series; occasionally it even equals that of animated
movies A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere through the use of moving images. These images are gen ...

movies
. OVA titles have a reputation for detailed plots and character-development, which can result from the greater creative freedom offered to writers and directors relative to other formats. This also allows for animated adaptations of manga to reflect their source material more faithfully. Since OVA
episode An episode is a narrative unit within a larger drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio dram ...
s and series have no fixed conventional length, OVA directors can use however much time they like to tell the story. Time becomes available to expand upon significant background, character, and plot development. This contrasts with television episodes (which must end somewhere between 22 and 26 minutes) and with films (which rarely last more than two hours). In the same way, no pressure exists to produce "filler content" to extend a short plot into a full television series. The producers of OVA titles generally target a specific audience, rather than the more mass-market audience of films and television series, or may feel less constrained by content-restrictions and censorship (such as for violence, nudity, and language) often placed on television series. For example, the ''
Kissxsis ''Kiss×sis'' (stylized as ''kiss×sis''; pronounced "kiss sis") is a Japanese manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag ...
'' OVA series generally contains more sexual themes than its television counterpart. Much OVA-production aims at an audience of male anime enthusiasts.
Bandai Visual was a Japanese anime is hand-drawn and computer animation " technique Computer animation is the process used for digitally generating animated images. The more general term computer-generated imagery Computer-generated imagery (CG ...

Bandai Visual
stated in a 2004 news release (for their new OVAs aimed at women) that about 50% of the customers who had bought their anime DVDs in the past fell into the category of 25- to 40-year-old men, with only 13% of purchasers women, even with all ages included. These statistics cover Bandai Visual anime DVDs in general, not just OVAs, but they show the general tendency at this point.
Nikkei Business Publications , commonly known as , is a book and magazine publisher Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the creation ...
also stated in a news-release that mainly 25- to 40-year-old adults bought anime DVDs. Few OVAs specifically target female audiences, but ''
Earthian is a yaoi manga by Yun Kouga about angel watchers of earth which was made into a J.C.Staff-produced anime OVA. The angels' roles are to assess the progress of humans giving them positive and negative scores based on their everyday actions. ...
'' exemplifies the exceptions. Some OVAs based on television series (and especially those based on
manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

manga
) may provide closure to the plot – closure not present in the original series. The ''
Rurouni Kenshin is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The story begins during the 11th year of the Meiji period in Japan (1878) and follows a former assassin from the Bakumatsu, known as Hitokiri Battosai. After his work ag ...
'' OVAs, to name one series, exemplified numerous aspects of OVAs; they were slightly based on chapters of the author
Nobuhiro Watsuki , better known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an author and printed on the title page or by-line of their works in p ...
's manga that had not been adapted into the anime television series, had higher-quality animation, were much more violent, and were executed in a far more dark and realistic style than the TV episodes or the manga. Dark realism featured in
Masami Kurumada is a Japanese manga artist A manga artist (or in Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a wh ...

Masami Kurumada
's famous manga ''
Saint Seiya , also known as ''Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac'' or simply ''Knights of the Zodiac'', is a Japanese manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag ...
''. The anime adapted two of the three arcs in Kurumada's manga—the
project A project (or program) is any undertaking, carried out individually or collaboratively and possibly involving research or design, that is carefully plan A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with details of timing and resources, us ...

project
to adapt the third arc to the anime never started. As Kurumada had completed his manga in 1991, its third act was finally adapted to anime, releasing the episodes as OVAs, starting in 2003 and finishing in 2008, at last adapting Kurumada's manga completely to anime. Most OVA titles run for four to eight episodes, and some only have one. They tend to have a complex and continuous plot, best enjoyed if all episodes are viewed in sequence. This contrasts with television series, which generally have many short "mini-stories" that happen to be related somehow, rather than a unified plot. Many OVA titles can be thought of as "long films" that just happen to be released in parts. Release schedules vary: some series may progress as slowly as 1–2 episodes per year. Some OVA titles with a lengthy release-schedule ended up unfinished due to lack of fan support and sales. Many one-episode OVAs exist as well. Typically, such an OVA provides a
side-story In fiction, a subplot is a secondary strand of the Plot (narrative), plot that is a supporting side story for any story or the main plot. Subplots may connect to main plots, in either time and place or in thematic significance. Subplots often invol ...
to a popular TV series (such as ''
Detective Conan ''Case Closed'', also known as , is a Japanese detective A detective is an investigator, usually a member of a law enforcement agency A law enforcement agency (LEA), in North American English, is any government agency responsible for ...
'' OVAs). At an early stage in the history of the OVA (1980s) many one-episode OVAs appeared. Hundreds of manga that were popular but not enough to gain TV series were granted one-shot (or otherwise extremely short) OVA episodes. When these one-shot OVAs prove popular enough, a network can use the OVA as a pilot to an anime series.


History

OVAs originated during the early 1980s. As the VCR became a widespread fixture in Japanese homes, the Japanese anime industry grew to behemoth proportions. Demand for anime became massive, so much so that consumers would willingly go directly to video stores to buy new animation outright. While people in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
use the phrase "
direct-to-video Direct-to-video or straight-to-video refers to the release Release may refer to: * Film release, the public distribution of a film * Legal release, a legal instrument * News release, a communication directed at the news media * Release (ISUP), a ...
" as a pejorative for works that could not make it onto television or movie screens, in Japan the demand was so great that direct-to-video became a necessity. Many popular and influential series such as ''
Bubblegum Crisis is a 1987 to 1991 cyberpunk original video animation (OVA) series produced by Youmex and animated by Anime International Company, AIC and Artmic. The series was planned to run for 13 episodes, but was cut short to just 8. The series involves ...
'' (1987–1991) and ''
Tenchi Muyo! is a Japanese anime, light novel and manga franchise. The original series began with a six-episode Original video animation, OVA called created by Masaki Kajishima and directed by Hiroki Hayashi, and released in Japan on September 25, 1 ...
'' (1992–2005) were released directly to video as OVAs. The earliest known attempt to release an OVA involved
Osamu Tezuka Osamu Tezuka (, b. , ''Tezuka Osamu''; – 9 February 1989) was a Japanese manga artist, cartoonist, and animator. Born in Osaka Prefecture, his prolific output, pioneering techniques, and innovative redefinitions of genres earned him such ti ...
's ''
The Green Cat is a 1950s Japanese manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rec ...
'' (part of the
Lion Books is a 1950s Japanese manga series by Osamu Tezuka. It was published by Shueisha in the ''Omoshiro Book'' as a supplement. The same company published ''Lion Books II'' in ''Weekly Shōnen Jump'' in the 1970s, which would commonly be referred to ...
series) in 1983, although it cannot count as the first OVA: there is no evidence that the
VHS VHS (Video Home System) is a for consumer-level on tape . From the 1950s, video recording became a major contributor to the television industry, via the first commercialized s (VTRs). At that time, the expensive devices were used only i ...

VHS
tape became available immediately and the series remained incomplete. Therefore, the first official OVA release to be billed as such was 1983's ''
Dallos is a science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imagination, imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space explo ...
'', directed by
Mamoru Oshii is a Japanese filmmaker, television director and writer. Famous for his philosophy-oriented storytelling, Oshii has directed a number of acclaimed anime films, including ''Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer'' (1984), ''Angel's Egg'' (1985), ...
and released by
Bandai is a Japanese toy maker and a producer of many plastic model kits as well as a former video game company. Its headquarters are located in Taitō, Tokyo, Taitō, Tokyo. From 1981 until 2001, Bandai also produced video game consoles. History In ...

Bandai
. Other famous early OVAs, premiering shortly thereafter, were ''
Fight! Iczer One ''Iczer One'', known in Japan as , is a 1983 sci-fi horror and yuri manga published in ''Lemon People was a Lolicon, ''lolicon'' hentai manga magazine published by Kubo Shoten from February 1982''Comic Box'', Fusion Product, April 1983, ...
'' and the original ''
Megazone 23 is a four-part Japanese cyberpunk Japanese cyberpunk refers to cyberpunk Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian Futurism, futuristic setting that tends to focus on a "combination of low-life, lowlife and high tech", fe ...
''. Other companies were quick to pick up on the idea, and the mid-to-late 1980s saw the market flooded with OVAs. During this time, most OVA series were new, stand-alone titles. In the 1980s during Japan's economic bubble, production companies were more than willing to spontaneously decide to make a one- or two-part OVA. They paid money to anime studios, who then haphazardly created an OVA to be released to rental shops. Judging from sales, should a longer series be deemed feasible, TV networks paid for most of the production costs of the entire series. As the Japanese economy worsened in the 1990s, the flood of new OVA titles diminished to a trickle. Production of OVAs continued, but in smaller numbers. Many anime television series ran an economical 13 episodes rather than the traditional 26-episodes per season. New titles were often designed to be released to TV if they approached these lengths. In addition, the rising popularity of cable and satellite TV networks (with their typically less strict censorship rules) allowed the public to see direct broadcasts of many new titles—something that previously would have been impossible. Therefore, many violent, risque, and
fan service , fanservice or ,Example: A frame (numbered "25") from the English opening sequence of '' New Cutie Honey'', in which character Danbei Hayami fires a Rocket Punch Rocket Punch () is a six-member South Korean girl group under Woollim Entertai ...
series became regular TV series, when previously those titles would have been OVAs. During this time period most OVA content was limited to that related to existing and established titles. However, in 2000 and later, a new OVA trend began. Producers released many TV series without normal broadcasts of all of the episodes—but releasing some episodes on the DVD release of the series. Examples of this include the DVD-only 25th episode of ''
Love Hina is a Japanese manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectan ...
'', while several episodes of the '' Oh My Goddess'' TV series are DVD-only. In addition, the final episode of ''
Excel Saga is a manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_c ...
'' was offered only as an OVA, mostly due to content issues that would have made TV broadcast impossible. In these cases the series as a whole cannot be called an OVA, though certain episodes are. This trend is becoming quite common, and furthermore, many recent OVA series pre-broadcast the episodes and release the DVD with unedited and better quality, along with revised animations—thus further blurring the boundary between TV and video anime.


See also

*
Direct-to-video Direct-to-video or straight-to-video refers to the release Release may refer to: * Film release, the public distribution of a film * Legal release, a legal instrument * News release, a communication directed at the news media * Release (ISUP), a ...
*
Original net animation An original net animation (ONA), known in Japan as , is an animation that is directly released onto the Internet. ONAs may also have been aired on television if they were first directly released on the Internet. The name mirrors original video ani ...


References

{{Animation industry in Japan Anime and manga terminology