What is an OVA? [Definition, Meaning]

There are several terms thrown around in the anime community that you may have heard but not known what they meant. Today, I’m going to break down a few of those. What I want to cover are OVA, OAD, and ONA. I’m almost 100% sure that you’ve heard of an OVA. But, more than likely you’ve never seen or heard of the other two.

There are very similar. In fact, the latter two terms are subcategories of an OVA. So, the definition and its uses also extends to the other two. But, ODA and ODE each carry a few extra stipulations. So, let me break down each one separately. That way you get a solid understanding of each and don’t get them confused with one another. Let’s start with the most common term.

What is an OVA?

An OVA is an Original Video Animation. The most notable difference between OVA and a standard anime series is that the OVA never aired on television. It was created and then directly made available for consumers to purchase. Originally they were available on VHS. Of course, today the primary way people buy OVA are in the form of DVD’s or Blu-rays.

Usually they are related to an existing anime series. It can be a prequel, sequel, alternate universe storyline, or any other kind of narrative that connects to a series. But, it doesn’t have to tie in to a pre-existing anime or manga. It can be completely original.

The allocated resources are usually higher than that of standard anime episodes. So, studios can use the extra freedom to push for higher standards of quality. This usually manifests in beautifully animated, well-told stories that can make some regular anime pale in comparison.

Also, the acronym used to look slightly different. It used to be OAV. However, AV (animation video) was a little too confusing because it was very similar to a couple of other terms. Audio/Video and Adult Video were commonly mixed up whenever OAV was brought up. So, the anime industry quickly changed the acronym and the community backed the new version.

Longest Running OVA

Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu)

Legend of the Galactic Heroes wallpaper
  • Episodes: 101
  • Aired: Jan 1988 - Mar 1997

In a nutshell, Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu) is an interstellar, military space opera. Two men, Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-Li, join the military for personal and political reasons. They both prove to be talented and highly intelligent individuals who attract like-minded soldiers to their cause. The two build up a rivalry that eventually breaks the stalemate that existed between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. Their story brings about the end of the greatest war mankind has ever undergone.

LGH is highly regarded as one of the best OVA series ever released. The character development and epicness are something no other anime has quite matched. Some other anime up there along with LGH would be FLCL, Hellsing Ultimate, and Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal.

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However, LGH trumps all of those in sheer size. In its entirety, it spans 110 episodes. It even boasts the largest voice acting cast of any series ever. It contained over 300 voice actors. What’s more impressive is that at the beginning, of its nearly ten year span, it was a subscription based product. Meaning, episodes were mailed to fans of the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Trailer

Stay Away from This OVA

Mars of Destruction

Mars of Destruction wallpaper
  • Episodes: 1
  • Aired: Jul 2015

Hopefully, from my description of what an OVA is and the example up above you can determine what a good one should consist of. It should definitely have great visuals, strong attention to detail, an engaging story (original or not), character development, and, at the very least, induce some laughs or emotions out of you.
Mars of Destruction has none of those elements and even fails to tell a somewhat basic plot. The story aside, the execution of scene transitions and animation are appalling. I won’t bore you with all the gruesome details. But, I will warn you to stay away from Skelter + Heaven. It’s another anime from the same studio (Idea Factory). Mars of Destruction has one of the lowest rankings on the MyAnimeList site. It is a cautionary tale, for anime studios, on how NOT to create an OVA.

What is an OAD?

This next term is much less familiar because there are far fewer anime that fall under this category. That would be the category labeled as OAD or Original Animation DVD. Starting in 2008, certain volumes of manga would come bundled with a promotional DVD. Those discs contained single anime episodes of the same franchise. They are usually “what-if” episodes that place the characters in wacky or entertaining situations. Basically, they are created as incentives to purchase a manga.

Skelter Heaven wallpaper

Bonus Trivia

Strong World

Strong World onepiece wallpaper
  • Episodes: 1
  • Aired: Dec 2009

In Strong World, Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates find themselves on a mysteriously island where all of the animals and wildlife are immensely powerful. It seems that something has altered nature and forcibly evolved these beasts into dangerous predators. Shiki “The Golden Lion” is the legendary pirate responsible for those changes. He has escaped from imprisonment at Impel an has set in motion his plan to destroy the World Government and bring the whole world under his rule.

One Piece Film: Strong World is an example of an OVA that essentially acts as a reverse OAD. What I mean is that this anime was released in Japanese theaters and a complementary (and complimentary) manga was given to customers who purchased tickets. Moviegoers were given a copy of One Piece Volume #0. It was a one time release. The volume contained Chapter #0 of One Piece and included some screenshots of Strong World. This is not the only film to have operated in this manner, but it is definitely not a very common practice.

One Piece Movie: Strong World - Trailer

What is an ONA?

ONA or Original Net Animation is the newest term and has only been around for the last few years. These are anime series that have only been broadcasted online only. Some of the most popular ONA include: Eve no Jikan, Hetalia Axis Powers, Inferno Cop, There She Is!, and (more recently) Ninja Slayer. Though, Ninja Slayer will soon break out of this category since it is scheduled to be broadcasted on television sometime in 2016.

ONA Recommendation

Ninja Slayer

ninja slayer wallpaper 01
  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: Apr 2015 - Oct 2015

Ninja Slayer would be a good place to start if you want to check out an ONA. As I mentioned above, this anime is very recent. It just finished its 26 episode run on October 8th. Essentially, the story is about a man, Kenji Fujikido, whose family is murdered by members of the Soukai Syndicate. On the verge of death, Kenji agrees to harbor the soul of an ancient ninja known as Naraku Ninja. He uses Naraku’s power to exterminate all ninja and take down the syndicate. He does all of this under his new persona, Ninja Slayer.

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Conclusion

Hopefully, I was able to clear up those three different terms for you. Remember that OAD and ONA are types of Original Video Animations. They simply have minor caveats. To recap: OVA is an anime that never aired on television. OAD is an anime that comes bundled with a volume of manga. Lastly, an ONA is an anime that has only been broadcasted online.

The majority of OVA’s that I’ve seen have been excellent. Each year they improve in quality, as well. So, go and check out some OVA’s. I’ve only seen a few OVA, myself, but I have a few personal favorites. They include: Ninja Slayer (of course!), Strong World, and Hellsing Ultimate. I’d like to hear some recommendations from you guys as well! Maybe we can share some suggestions and discover some OAD together, since those are a little harder to come by.

Hellsing Ultimate wallpaper
Javier Garcia

Writer

Author: Javier Garcia

Hey guys! I'm a huge fan of anime and video games. I used to be a competitive fighting game player (search my name in YouTube). So, I guess it was natural for me to make my way over here to Japan. I teach English, write anime articles, and put together videos when I have time. I hope you enjoy the content we've created for you here at Honey's Anime!

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