What Are OVA Episodes in Anime? Answered

Anime comes in many forms and media, with OVAs being a prime example.

by J.R. Waugh
Image: Geneon Entertainment

Anime is one of the biggest markets for fandoms worldwide, growing at an impressive rate to already be worth over $20bn annually. The concept of anime itself emerged from Japan specifically, with it essentially being used to refer to Japanese animation, whether hand-drawn or computer animated. But for viewers of recent anime looking into older content, or noticing certain animations only appearing on certain media, the questions arise of what OVA episodes are in Anime.

What Are OVA Episodes in Anime?

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OVA, or “Original Video Animation,” are anime episodes or longer-format animated specials that are made to release straight to home video format instead of being broadcast first. They typically are made with a much higher production budget than a typical anime episode and can be one-shot adaptations like the Sonic the Hedgehog OVA, or a series of stories meant to be watched in sequence.

Famous examples like this include Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin or Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the latter boasting an astounding 110 episodes. OVA specifically was meant to refer to VHS releases, but would later apply to Laserdisc and other home video media. The term Original Animation DVD (OAD) is also closely related to this, DVDs bundled with the manga they adapt.

Related: How to Watch Mobile Suit Gundam in Order

OVA anime episodes are relevant because they can do anything from expanding upon an existing story (like Love Hina Again) or telling entirely new ones, or even simply side stories. But in an age where streaming is becoming more commonly a dominant method to consume entertainment, direct-to-video doesn’t necessarily apply the same way.

What Are ONA?

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ONA, or Original Net Animation, is an anime term much like OVA but refers to episodes, specials, or features sent directly to streaming platforms. For those curious about good examples of great ONA to emerge over the past few years, consider the following:

There are numerous other examples, but these are just a tiny, tiny sliver of the options made available first online. Some like Record of Ragnarok and Romantic Killer are original Japanese series being adapted to anime but put exclusively on Netflix. Others, like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and arguably Star Wars: Visions are anime based on Western IPs adapted by renowned studios. But one thing held in common by each of these is they are often massively popular, and easily consumed by the masses thanks to their broad reach.

It’s important to recognize this distinction, however, as to be considered an ONA or an OVA, the anime episodes can’t have been aired before this. So for Oshi no Ko and other hit anime like Hell’s Paradise, while they are simulcast with the original TV broadcast, this doesn’t quite make them ONA, although it’d be understandable to believe them to be so.

- This article was updated on April 25th, 2023

About The Author

J.R. is a content creator with AOTF and has been covering gaming and entertainment in the industry since 2022. Along with a B.A. in History from the University of Cincinnati, he has studied at the University of Birmingham, UK, and part of his M.A. at the University of Waterloo. You'll find J.R. particularly at home writing about the hottest manga and anime. He is highly passionate about horror, strategy, and RPGs, and anything about Star Trek or LOTR. When not ranting about fan theories or writing guides, J.R. also manages his local movie theater.