Thursday, March 30, 2017

OVA - Meaning in Japanese

An OVA is an anime that was released first as physical copies, that is, on discs, DVDs, Blu-rays, as opposed to having first aired on TV. This includes both whole series first sold as discs, as well as bonus episodes that never aired on TV but on blu-rays containing episodes that did air on TV.

In English, "straight-to-video" or "direct-to-video" are similar terms, but OVA refers to animation specifically.

If an anime is first sold as DVD/Blu-ray, then airs on TV, it's an OVA. If it airs on TV first, then is sold as discs, it's not OVA. If it's sold as disc, and never airs on TV, it's OVA. If the anime airs on TV, and then it's sold on discs, but the discs also include bonus content such as an extra episode, the anime is not OVA, but the extra content is OVA. If an anime is first available on the internet, it's ONA. If it's first available as a bonus in a limited edition manga volume, it's OAD.

In Japanese

OVA, pronounced oobuiee オーブイエー, is a Japanese term.

It's not an English term that was loaned into Japanese.

It's a Japanese term made out of English—this is called wasei-eigo 和製英語—that was later loaned back into English.


OVA stands for Orijinaru Bideo Animeeshon オリジナル ビデオ アニメーション, a katakanization of "Original Video Animation" in English.

A less used synonym is OAV: Original Animation Video.

Another term is OAD: Original Animation Disc. Despite the apparently synonymous meaning, the term OAD is used to refer to a specific type of OVA: the sort that is released as a bonus bundled with a limited edition manga volume.

In English, ONA, Original Net Animation, is a term for an anime that was originally released on the internet. In Japanese, this would instead be called "web anime," webu-anime ウェブアニメ.


The term OVA is used to distinguish anime that originally didn't air on the TV from those that did. Specifically, it refers to anime that was first sold as DVDs or Blu-rays. To elaborate:

  1. If the anime was sold as DVDs, and never aired on TV.
    It's an OVA.
  2. If the anime was sold as DVDs, and then aired on TV.
    It's an OVA.
  3. If the anime aired on TV, and then was sold as DVDs.
    It's not an OVA.
  4. If the anime aired on TV, and then was sold as DVDs, and the DVD included a bonus episode that never aired on TV.
    It's not an OVA, but the bonus content is OVA.


Bonus Content

Often, the term OVA refers to bonus content included in the sale of DVDs and Blu-rays of a series that originally aired on TV.

For example, you have a series of 12 episodes that aired week after week on TV for a whole three months. After it finished airing, the Blu-rays became available for purchase.

But why would you buy the Blu-rays if you already watched all 12 episodes on TV?

One incentive the studio might add is the inclusion of extra episodes and other bonuses. Sometimes it's one whole extra episode, other times it's a bunch of short episodes.

The bonus content normally doesn't include anything meaningful plot-wise. Typically, the bonus is an inconsequential side-story, and may resemble a slice of life anime.

  • omake
    A discount.
    An extra. A bonus. (e.g. the yonkoma at the end of a manga volume.)
  • Shingeki no Kyojin: Kuinaki Sentaku
    進撃の巨人 悔いなき選択
    A side-story about one of the characters of the main series.


Since nothing that really matters is going to happen in the episode anyway, that often means the episode will be filled with blatant fanservice that would normally irk many fans.


Some OVA do not air on TV due to the format of the series.

TV stations have to manage countless shows and allot time for each, so it makes sense for them to enforce a standard format that all shows have to follow in order to make things easier for them.

A year has four seasons—spring, summer, autumn and winter—and twelve months. 12 ÷ 4 = 3. That means each season has 3 months. This is also called a cour. And each month has 4 weeks, so a cour has 12 weeks.

If a winter anime airs on the same weekday every week, it will have 12 episodes. Maybe 11, maybe 13. And those episodes most likely will have 24 minutes each, divided into two 12 minute parts, called A part and B part.

Airing on the TV means abiding by the format described above. The director of the series has to make arcs fit 12 episodes, and figure out a way to make episodes end somewhere that makes sense.

If the director is like: "no, we absolutely need 10 episodes of 40 minutes." Or the production is like: "we only have budget for 5 episodes of 6 minutes." Then it's not going to work out on TV, at least not without some negotiation.

  • Hellsing Ultimate, 10 episodes of 50 minutes each.
  • Detroit Metal City, 12 episodes of 13 minutes each.
  • Hunter x Hunter: Greed Island, 8 episodes of 22 minutes each. This one is a sequel.
  • Golden Boy, 6 episodes of 29 minutes each.


Some OVA are known for having superior quality compared to TV anime.

Typically, a TV anime is still being made as it's airing. For example, on the week the first episode is airing, the first four episodes may be finished, and the studio is animating the fifth, sixth, and seventh episodes.

This means that a TV anime is under time constraints that don't only affect the overall quality of the anime but also the consistency of the quality.

For example, say that on the 9th week the 10th episode is still not done. Suddenly everybody has to hurry up to finish the thing. If the previous episodes were done well and with plenty of time, this one is going to be done badly and in a rush.

By contrast, an OVA doesn't have a deadline for each episode. It might have a deadline for the whole project, and certainly the faster it finishes the better, but as long as the first episode hasn't been released, it can still be improved.

In other words, it's not that OVA is good, it's that TV anime is bad.

It's worth noting that sometimes an episode of a TV anime that already aired may get retouched for the disc release, to fix things that got aired in a rush, or that weren't properly vetted.


Some OVA do not air on TV due to censorship, specially on mature or risqué content.

Airing on TV means abiding by various censorship laws stipulated by the government, plus whatever stipulations the TV station stipulates.

Content may be legal to air on TV, but no TV station may want to air it without heavy modifications. Some TV stations might rather not air it at all.

Assuming that it does air, it's going to air at late night, when most people are sleeping. Nonetheless, airing on TV means being accessible to an audience of hundreds of millions, so it's probably worth it to get the anime on TV if you can.

  • Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san.
    The manga is very dirty, but somehow the anime production managed to squeeze through the R-17 rating to air two seasons on TV by skipping through the nastier chapters. Later, an R+18 OVA was released adapting those nastier chapters.


Pornographic anime (hentai) generally does not air on TV, and, consequently, they're often OVA, being sold or rented as physical discs on stores.

Business Model

Some OVA are OVA because the business model of the studio relies on the sale of physical media, and airing it on TV doesn't make any sense at all.

First and foremost, in Japan, the studio pays the TV for a slot in order to air, not the other way around—the TV doesn't pay the studio for the content.

Thus, airing something on TV is a cost, an investment, and if you don't have something to sell to make up for this cost, it's not profitable.

Doujin Anime

Some anime are made by very small studios with very small budgets that simply can't afford TV slots, in spite of making anime.

Some anime made by hobbyists (doujin 同人) are sold as physical copies, in booths, at conventions like Comiket. Since they're sold as discs, they're OVA.


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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 !