Thursday, March 30, 2017


If you've been watching anime for a while, you might have watched one of those famous OVAs, or even an ONA. And if not, I'm sure you've heard of the term before. But what are OVAs, exactly? And how are OVAs different from normal anime? And, of course, what does the word OVA mean to begin with?

Well, starting with the easiest question first. OVA stands for "Original Video Animation." But what does "Original Video Animation" means?! It makes little sense in English, obviously, because animations are often original, and they are also in video, so what's it with this tautology?! Well, it's because this is actually a Japanese word in disguise!

It usually happens that Japanese loans words from English, and "OVA," or oobuiee オーブイエー , is one of these cases. In Japanese, orijinaru bideo animeeshon オリジナル ビデオ アニメーション is the broken English mashup that gave birth to the OVA acronym.

What is an OVA?

Basically, disregarding the nonsensical words, an OVA is an anime that's not aired on TV. That is "originally" sold as video, that is, as a DVD or Blu-ray. This often happens for two reasons.

OVA Not Good for TV Format

Most anime airs on "TV," terebi テレビ, as "TV programs," bangumi 番組, and thus are called "TV anime," terebi anime テレビアニメ. However, in order for this to happen, modern TV anime must follow certain, rather strict guidelines.

For example, TV anime have episodes of 20 minutes, with rare exceptions. They air only once a week, with rare exceptions. And they air for one season (cour) or more. There are four seasons in a year. A year is 52 weeks. So every TV anime has to have 12 or 13 episodes, or 24, 25, or 52, 53, etc.

Most anime directors are skilled enough to handle these sort of restrictions pacing their story, stretching or skipping, placing cliffhangers accordingly and figuring out the best time to stop the adaptation. However, in some cases, airing the anime on TV would be too much of a hassle, and a more free format would be necessary.

This is most often the case with anime that don't have 12 episodes of material. They are original anime (not adaptations) and were written to fit perfectly into 3 episodes, or 5 episodes, etc. Since TV is not an option for them, they are sold directly as OVAs. That is, as Blu-rays and etc.

Example: Hellsing Ultimate (10 episodes of 50 minutes each), sold originally as DVDs.

OVA is Bonus

Another common case is when the OVA is a bonus. It's one or two full episodes or a number of shorts that come bundled with the purchase of a Blu-ray set or a certain manga volume.

In these cases, the OVA is going to be related to the story of the purchase. It might be a prequel, a sequel, a side-story, a spin-off, or even a satire. Some are really just bonus episodes, others are light-hearted slice-of-life-like episodes. It depends.

Example: Shingeki no Kyojin: Kuinaki Sentaku 進撃の巨人 悔いなき選択 (side-story / prequel about Levi)

You Can't Show That on TV!

A less common case, but that also exists, is anime with content that can't be shown on TV, for its gratuitous gore and nudity.

Nowadays, these things are regularly censored on TV with weird beams of light or curtains of darkness, and uncensored on the Blu-ray version. In the past, this sort of censorship on TV was less common. And there are still some shows that air on TV uncensored today, but this has implications on when it airs, and who gets to watch it.

The anime adaptation of Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. よんでますよ、アザゼルさん。, for example, comes from a manga that's very, very nasty. But they managed to squeeze the less-nasty content into two seasons that aired on TV, skipping chapters, and censoring what they couldn't outright skip.

It's got an R-17 rating. Congratulations, producers.

This anime also has an OVA, rated R+ 18, where they adapted a few chapters of the manga uncensored.

What is an ONA?

Now that we know what an OVA is, it's that to know the ONA, OVA's successor!

With time, technology, and etc. things became internet-ey and anime was no different. The ONA, or Original Net Animation, which is often called "web anime," or uebu anime ウェブアニメ, follows the spirit of OVAs and puts anime in the web with online streaming instead of airing it on TV or selling it in DVDs and Blu-rays.

Literally nobody says orijinaru netto animeeshon オリジナルネットアニメーション, though. It's always referred to as the acronym ONA or Web Anime, because, seriously, look at how long those words are. Nobody's going to say that.

Examples of ONA

One ONA example is Bounen no Xandou 忘年のザムド, which has a format fit perfectly for airing on TV (26 episodes, 20 minutes each), but instead of going on TV it was published on the Playstation Store. Yes. On Playstation. The game console. You could watch this thing through the internet, so it was a web anime.

A more extreme ONA example is the NSFW ecchi degeneracy known as Iyapan 嫌パン, a series of 6 short episodes streamed on Niconico Douga ニコニコ動画 (basically Japanese Youtube). Being based on a doujinshi series rather than a serialized manga or novel, that this thing even got an adaptation at all is probably a miracle. This would never air on TV, both because of its short format and because of its content.

If you thought that was extreme, well, prepare yourself for an even more extreme example of ONA: the anime Hitori-gurashi no Shougakusei ひとり暮らしの小学生, "Grade school student living alone." What's so "extreme" about it isn't the content, but the format: it's vertical, made to be watched on smartphones through an app. Here's the PV:

ONA Blu-rays

The only thing an ONA needs to be an ONA is to be originally published through the net, streamed online. Emphasis on this originally.

That is, if the first time an anime was made public it was through a streaming service like Crunchyroll, Furnimation, Hulu, Amazon, etc. then it's an ONA.

If it aired on TV first, then it was made available on Anime Strike or Netflix, it's NOT an ONA. It's a TV anime. Likewise, once an OVA always an OVA.

The opposite is also true.

After Bounen no Xandou was streamed online, it was sold on blu-rays. Just because it was put into a disc it didn't stop being an ONA and started being an OVA. In the case of Iyapan, physical copies are to be sold at Comiket just a month after it streamed on Nico.

This is a very trivial difference. If Iyapan was sold physically at Comiket first, and then streamed online, that would be enough to make it an OVA instead of ONA.

Why ONA?

With ONA being such a flimsy definition you might be wondering what's even the point of ONA. Since I'm no expert in this, I can only give you my obvious guesses.

With TV anime, you get to generate hype as it airs on TV, which then converts to sales of BDs. If people don't know about the anime there's no chance they're going to buy the expensive blu-ray.

With anime that can't air on TV, for multiple reasons, like Iyapan, they need another way to generate hype and future BD-buyers. That's why the internet streaming.

With anime that could air on TV but didn't, like Bounen no Xamdou, the reason is probably more complicated. In this case, it was because the anime was made in partnership with Sony, to show off their streaming service: the Playstation Network.


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  1. Thank you very much for such in-depth explanation :)

  2. Thank you for the explanation!

  3. Great explanation. Very well written! :)

  4. That is some important lessons that you don't want to miss out.Once again aarigato for explanation.

  5. Great Job, I real got it. In other words

    OVA sold on DVD, or BD and can't be aired on TV
    ONA Air or stream online then sold on BD

  6. I like the way this work has been written on.
    It was very helpful and understandable.
    Thank you !