If you’ve been a long-time anime fan, chances are high that you must have come across the term “OVA” several times. And it seems that you finally want to know what is the meaning of OVA, which is why you are on this page.
In this article, we will dive deep into the meaning of the term and figure out exactly what an OVA is and what makes it different from a “special.”
“OVA” stands for “Original Video Animation,” and it describes anime episodes that are made specifically for home viewing without having been released in theatres or aired on TV first.
That’s basically what makes an OVA. But that’s just the definition, as there’s more to know about this anime format. So, let’s dive a little deeper into the term!
What Does OVA Mean in Anime?
As mentioned above, OVA is an acronym that stands for “Original Video Animation.”
This basically means that the OVAs are made specifically for home viewing and would never get a TV broadcast or theatrical release.
This format was earlier only popular in Japan, but as anime’s popularity exploded all over the world, the OVA episodes have gained prominence worldwide.
And although OVAs don’t get a TV or theatre release, sometimes producers release clips on these platforms for promotional purposes in order to generate more viewership.
Since OVAs as a format has become quite prominent worldwide, the producers of various anime titles have started treating it as a part of their promotional strategies and also to expand the lore of the shows.
Sometimes the OVAs are non-canonical, meaning they have nothing to do with the original plot of the anime. However, at times, the OVAs feature a canon storyline to give a better understanding of a particular event or a character’s motivations.
As the OVAs aren’t aired on TV or released in theatres, they are released via DVDs, Blu-rays, and VHS tapes.
How Many Episodes Can an OVA Have? How Long are the OVA Episodes?
There is no specific number of episodes that an OVA can have, and how long the episodes will be is also not set in stone.
Most of the time, you’ll only have an OVA episode or two per anime title, or between two seasons of an anime. But there are times when this is not the case.
One popular example of an OVA is the Hellsing Ultimate series, which aired from 2006 to 2012 and consisted of 10 episodes. All these episodes were around 50 minutes long.
Then there’s also the OVA series titled Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which ran for 162 episodes – 110 episodes of the main series, and 52 were Gaiden episodes. And each of these episodes was 26 minutes long!
There is also an anime OVA like Natsume’s Book of Friends: On a Certain Snowy Day, which is just a single OVA episode, in the Natsume’s Book of Friends anime series. This OVA episode was only 23 minutes long!
So, as you see, there’s no specific number for how many OVA episodes there can be or how long these episodes are supposed to be!
What Are “Specials” in Anime?
“Specials” is another term that you may have seen multiple times in your anime research, and here’s what it actually means.
Specials in anime can be episodes that aren’t part of the original show, but they are aired on TV just like regular episodes. These episodes can also interrupt the usual airing of the show and premiere in between regular episodes.
One recent example of a “Special” is Dr. Stone: Ryusui, which aired on July 10, 2022. It consists of only one episode, 54 minutes long, and is part of the original story as it takes place after the events of season 2 of Dr. Stone but before the events of the upcoming season 3.
When it comes to “Specials,” there aren’t many restrictions as they can tell a self-contained, canon story, like in Dr. Stone’s case, or they can take characters from the show and tell a completely different story. This means that a Special can be canon, or it can also be non-canon.
Earlier, the Specials were treated as just-for-fun episodes by fans, but that’s no longer the case because Specials can also tell a canon story. So, always do your research when deciding to watch a Special of your favorite anime show because you don’t want to miss any important plot point!
How Are OVAs Different From Specials?
An “OVA” episode can be a “Special,” but a Special cannot be an OVA, at least most of the time. A Special can only be an OVA if it is intended for home viewing purposes and not aired on TV or released in theatres.
For example, the recap episode of The Promised Neverland season 2, i.e., Episode 5.5, which aired between episodes 5 and 6, is a Special and not an OVA because it aired just like the rest of the episodes in the season.
What is the Purpose of OVAs? Are They Better Than Regular Anime Episodes?
As I mentioned earlier, OVAs aren’t bound by any restrictions, meaning they can feature multiple episodes, and the episodes can be any length.
Hellsing Ultimate is the most popular example of an OVA series, as each of its episodes was 50 minutes long, unlike regular anime episodes that are generally around 20-25 minutes long.
Since OVAs aren’t broadcasted on TV or released in theatres, they can be an excellent opportunity for producers to play around with the source material. And as there aren’t many restrictions to consider, producers can exercise more creative freedom while producing an OVA episode or series.
So, are OVAs better than regular anime episodes? That is debatable because there’s no concrete answer to that question.
While regular anime episodes are aired on TV and have certain restrictions, they do tell the canon story as the author intended it to be told. So, saying OVAs are better is just plain wrong.
But with OVAs not bound by any restrictions, and they are part of pre-existing shows, they are generally meant for fans willing to purchase their favorite shows’ DVDs. So, OVAs can be used to tell a canon story or adapt a storyline that wouldn’t generally be suitable for home viewing.
Do You Watch OVA Episodes First?
The answer to this question is it depends!
Sometimes, OVAs are just-for-fun episodes, and sometimes they are a part of the canon story. If it’s the former, then you can watch the OVA episodes whenever you want, but if it’s the latter, then you need to watch it in proper order.
Sometimes anime OVAs are prequels; sometimes, they are sequels. So, it’s always a good idea to check the watch order of the anime you are about to watch, especially if it is an anime title with multiple seasons, like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or Haikyuu!
Looking at the anime watch orders beforehand will help you understand whether an OVA is canon or not and exactly when to watch it to avoid messing up the storyline and always be up to date with the events happening in the anime.
That brings us to the end of the article. I hope your search for OVA meaning has finally ended because after reading this article, you’d know precisely what OVA means and how it differs from other formats like Specials or regular anime episodes.
If you think I missed something important about OVAs and didn’t mention it in the article, then let me know, and I’ll update the article with relevant information. Let me know if you still have some doubts about this anime format.
If not, and if you are completely satisfied with the information you just read, then make sure to share the article with your other otaku friends so that they never have to ask the question, what does OVA mean in anime, because they will already know the answer!