OVA Anime Subgenre

What is OVA Anime?

The slightly older side of shounen, OVA refers to anime that targets older male viewers. Because of this, OVA is wide enough to encompass the gritty side of anime as much as it does the "cute girls doing cute things" parts. Of course, as a demographic-based subgenre, the series that fall under this category can be basically anything, but it does still have its own feel.


OVA anime are classified by their focus on character development, story, depth and realism. While shounen likes to jump into action before thinking about it, OVA anime often considers the uncertainties and effects of acting, preferring to contemplate the possibilities before breaking out into awesome action scenes.

OVA Characteristics

Bonus content. A large number of OVAs are made as bonus episodes for anime that has already aired on TV, or as a pilot episode for anime that will be on TV soon. Other OVAs adapt a particular story in a game or manga, or tell a known story from a different point of view. Specials can sometimes count as OVAs if they don't air on TV, but it's really all about where it's seen first.


Risqué content. Direct-to-video means series that are too full of gore or have sexual content can skip airing restrictions and go straight to the people who want it.


Very short in length. Whether it's about how many episodes there are or the actual time the OVA spans for, OVAs tend to be pretty short. It's not uncommon to see fifteen minute bonus episodes, five minute episodes, or any span of time. Similarly, it's not uncommon to see a story told over two standard-length episodes rather than a twelve-episode TV run.

Related Anime Sub-Genres

Hentai. An obvious subgenre that relies on the OVA format to distribute.


Horror. Many horror anime aired on TV have gore censored, editing in beams of light or pools of shadow to hide anything with too much blood and guts. Some horror titles, though, hinge on the blood and gore so much that they might as well release straight to DVD; though sometimes this is in part because it's also a short adaption of something else.


ONAs. ONA stands for "original net animation"; basically, a web anime. It airs much like a TV anime, but is only available through streaming it on certain official websites. While ONAs can be extra episodes like OVAs (or even movies), they're commonly series by themselves.


OAD. Only very slightly different to OVAs and ONAs is the "original animation DVD" format. It specifically refers to anime made especially to be bundled with non-anime goods, like manga.

You won't like OVA if you…

  • Need your dose of lengthy series.
  • Aren't into the series it expands on.
  • Don't like to wait for half a year for the DVDs or Blu-Rays to come out.
  • Would rather wait for a full-cour anime version.
  • Need your anime to be at least twenty-four minutes long.



    Here's our top 10 'best OVA recommendations'


    (Please note: In the interest of being fair, we've only selected OVAs that you don't have to know anything about in order to enjoy)


    1. Legend of the Galactic Heroes – The known universe is split between two factions: the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. When a military genius emerges on the Empire's side, the Alliance is forced to back their greatest man, and the two sides continue to vie for supremacy. Breaks basically all of OVA's general characteristics but stands out as an incredibly long, incredibly political space opera.


    2. FLCL – Naota's brother leaves for America, leaving him and Mamimi (his girlfriend) behind in a confused daze. But in bursts Haruko with her bass guitar and turns everything to insanity. A short, chaotic series about everything fun.


    3. Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal – Kenshin Himura, a samurai who would become known as Battousai the Manslayer, is rescued from a massacre as a child. This is his origin story: of how Kenshin grew up, became the most feared assassin of Meiji era Japan, and finally vowed to never kill again. A violent prequel to the Rurouni Kenshin series that feels like a movie and hits you emotionally like a truck.


    4. Hellsing Ultimate – Alucard, a powerful vampire, is the Hellsing Organization's secret weapon against all things vampires. But it's not just the usual ghost or ghoul he's up against this time; someone is out to destroy London with a whole army of supernatural creatures.


    5. Golden Boy – Kintarou is a genius, but he dropped out of Tokyo University to roam Japan on his bicycle. He applies for all sorts of jobs and meets all sorts of women, but leaves before they can get too attached. A short ecchi series with a golden heart.


    6. Pale Cocoon – It's a post-apocalyptic world that Ura lives in; a world where those who survived the change must live below the Earth's surface in an artificial colony. It's Ura's job to comb through digital archives to examine them, and his latest discovery could change everything. A one-off story that delves into an interesting future.


    7. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Humanity is on the verge of extinction. Attacks from aliens have rendered Earth almost uninhabitable, and their only hope for survival is the colossal space ship Yamato. It must journey across the galaxy to bring help home, but a whole host of obstacles stand in its way. A faithful remake of the famous Space Battleship Yamato space opera series.


    8. R.O.D – Yomiko Readman has an affinity for books. But it's not just the books themselves – it's the paper. She has the ability to wield paper as a weapon and, thanks to her power, she works as a secret agent for the British Library Special Operations Division. Her latest case is to pursue a valuable book that holds the key to world domination. A short, quirky series that goes a little crazy with the plot and action scenes.


    9. Denpa Teki na Kanojo – Delinquent Juu didn't suspect he was a king in his previous life, but the strange girl Ame claiming to be his knight isn't helping things. After the murder of a classmate, the two team up to find the killer. An unfortunately short-run series with strong mystery/thriller atmosphere.


    10. Voices of a Distant Star – Mikako and Noboru are high school friends, but their futures are headed in two very different directions. While Noboru will continue with high school, Mikako will be exploring the far reaches of space. The only thing still connecting them is mobile emails. A very short story about bittersweet love and distance.

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