A Guide to Knowing Everything About OVAs and their Purpose

You have probably heard about OVAs but are not sure what it is. If you are someone that has stayed in Japan for an extended period or are Japanese, you have seen or heard about OVA videos. Otherwise, you should read through thus article to know what OVAs are and their purpose.

Definition of OVA

OVA is an abbreviation for original video animation. OVAs are animated films in Japanese produced in a home video format. Home videos releases are prerecorded videos rented or sold for viewing at home. The videos are not meant to be aired on television or shown in movie theatres. Originally, they were made in video home system (VHS) before they became popular as digital video disc (DVD). Just like films for television broadcasts, OVAs have several episodes.

History of How OVAs Originated

The first time OVA came into existence was in early 1980s. The past few years have seen a tremendous growth in the Japanese anime industry with videocassette recorders (VCR) becoming widespread in many homes in Japan. With the increased demand for anime, clients are voluntarily buying new animation videos directly from the shops. While individuals in the United States of America referred to films that are not made for television screens as direct-to-video, the demand for the videos was great in Japan that they became a necessity. During that time, several popular series such as Tenchi Muay! (1992-2005) and Bubblegum Crisis (1987-1991) were published as OVA.

The Green Cat by Ovamu Tezukar’s which is part of the Lion Book series was the first attempt on 1983 to produce OVA. Even though the film cannot be categorized as the first OVA release, there was immediate availability of VHS and no evidence exists that the film was never completed. Therefore, the first official OVA release was the 1983 Dallas Bill, directed by Mamoru Oshii and produced by Bandai. After the premier, other popular OVAs were Megazone 23, Fight! and Ixar One. As a result, other production firms quickly adopted the idea and by mid q980s, the Japanese was flooded with original video animations. At this time, most of the OVAs had single titles and were new.

The economic bubble in Japan in 1980s saw manufacturing firms being reluctant to spontaneously release OVAs with one or two parts. The companies paid for anime studios which would create OVAs and produce in the store. From the sales made, it could be seen that long series release should be considered. In the 1990s, Japanese economy declined new release of new OVA titles reduced. The production of OVA is still ongoing but in small quantities.  Satellite and cable television networks became popular because they had less stringent censorship regulations, hence people could watch new series live. As a result, most OVA series were replaced by many fan service, violet and risky films. However, a new trend began in 2000. Producers released a large number of TV series without broadcasting all the episodes; instead some of the episodes would be released on DVD. Therefore, the film cannot be wholly termed as an OVA; this has blurred the line between video anime and TV broadcasts.

Purpose of OVA

Unlike other anime episodes, OVAs length duration is not fixed; they can have any length. OVAs provide creators with an opportunity to experiment with the source material because they lack conventional restrictions. Additionally, they allow writers to have fun with the film. Since they are not broadcasted, they relive the creators off the pressure of releasing excellent-quality work. With an OVA format, fan fiction materials can be released while it would not be easily aired on TV screens.

Features of OVA

The following are some of OVA properties:

  • Single OVA videos have one episode that lasts from a few minutes to two hours.  However, there is no fixed length of the series. There are series with short starting episodes and the last episodes may be a bit longer.
  • There are several OVA series that are released and grow into television series.
  • OVA titles are known to have character development features resulting from the creative freedom OVA directors and writers have.
  • The writer has the freedom to think about the story ad can take their time to build plot characters and background.
  • The producers of OVA have a specific target-audience and not a mass audience.
  • Most of OVA word titles last between four to eight episodes. Original video animations with complex plots may have only titles in one episode and are enjoyed in view.

Comparison between OVAs and Specials

As mentioned before, OVAs are specifically produced for home viewing whereas specials can be produced as television broadcasts that are separate from the rest of the film. Here is a list of more differences between OVAs and specials:

Episode length

The episode duration of specials is fixed. It can either be one or two hours. On the other hand, OVAs episode length is not constant. The length is determined by the writer depending with his mind and story.


Specials are released to be broadcasted as TV series and their production us systematic ad organized. OVAs are meant to be sold or rented on DVDs. They are not made for TV broadcasting, thus they are distributed in video rental stores.

Target Audience

Special’s audience is broader. They have a wide range of audience for specials include women, adults, men and children. OVA are released for a target audience. For example, an OVA can be made for kids and another for elders.


Specials undergo a number of censorship since they are released as TV series. However, OVAs are not made for broadcasting; therefore they do not go through any restrictions.


Compared to specials, OVAs are more creative. OVA writers are free to think and write stories according to their thoughts. They do not have a constant episode length or time limit. Since the writer’s creativity dictates the time limit of the episodes, they can write whatever they think. An OVA writer can take their time to let their creativity flow and produce a masterpiece. Meaning they can extend episodes’ length depending with the need of the story. Nobody can deny OVAs’ creativity. But specials writers are forced to compress or cut short the story to maintain the required episode length since there is set time limit.


While specials can be accessed by anime fans from all over the world, OVAs are popular in Japan and can only be accessed by Japanese.


To conclude, OVA simply refers to anime films that are not publicly broadcasted, rather they are released for home distribution. Since they are not aired on TV, they allow for greater creativity freedom and are not restricted by world film conventions. Furthermore, there are many elements that differentiate between an OVA and a special like target audience and episode duration.