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Almost Otaku: Is This What Really Happened to OVAs?

Do I have this right, now?

 Would this have been an OVA in some other time?
 Would this have been an OVA in some other time?

The thing about covering a convention (or most subjects, for that matter) is that I could go on for a lot longer than space allows - - and we try to keep things concise here at Anime Vice. One subject I want to revisit is “The Rise and Fall of OVA.’s”  because that was, by far, my favorite panel at AX 2010.

If you followed my reviews of FLCL back when we were running them, you’ll remember that I was a bit befuddled about the whole concept of OVAs. So I appreciated the Colony Drop clearing things up for me at the panel.  The way these guys broke it down made OVAs sound basically like a lot of other “fringe” media.  Indy comics, indy films, even indy games - - all of them have to use other channels to produce content that’s weirder, sexier, gorier or more artistic than you can get away with through normal avenues. So “schlock” like MD GEIST is equivalent to a  DTV Steven Segal movie, experimental work like DRAGON’S HEAVEN is equivalent to something like Tarsem’s THE FALL and hentai is (obviously) equivalent to porn. A consequence of this greater artistic freedom, of course, is that the budget's even more of a concern. Hence, episodes of these series had to be produced one-at-a-time and retail price had to be significantly higher. I was flabbergasted (but, honestly, not quite surprised) by how fans were willing to shell out upwards of $100 in Yen for laser discs with 40 minutes of content.

These guys suggested that OVAs began and ended because of technology advances. They started because the home video market allowed for audience-specific content, and they ended because cable and satellite channels ended up supplanting that. They suggested that COWBOY BEBOP, in particular, would've been an OVA if it were produced 10 years earlier. Which makes sense. Most kinds of entertainment don't really go away, they just change form. The four or five hour entertainment anthology  you'd get at a movie theater in the 30s and 40s becomes your TV experience today, playing a fighting game in the arcade is basically the same as playing people through XBOX Live, now, and so on...
 
Anyway, I just want to know if you Anime Vice lunatics agree on this assessment? Have I got something wrong? Am I misinterpreting something? Pitch in your opinions. I'd hate to be judging this based just on one source.

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Studios and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. Pre-order the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover now on Amazon.com.

metalsnakezeroon July 17, 2010 at 7:52 p.m.
It is true that we don't get a lot of original animes but that doesn't mean people are still willing to make more. Take a look at Darker than Black at how it got on top 10 selling list and some short animes like Cencoroll where it was made on a low budget.
Count_Zeroon July 17, 2010 at 8:21 p.m.
I kind of agree. However, the OVA as a format is no longer precisely dead in Japan. Either they've become On-Demand Pay-Per-Views for Satellite and Cable customers, like the recent Hellsing Ultimate series was, or they've become online videos like Hetalia: Axis Powers.
Gaffon July 17, 2010 at 8:46 p.m.
I think it's at least part of the answer: channels like AT-X for example are known for (how should I put it) "less stringent" -oh, let's just call it as it is, uncensored- broadcasts and are as such more willing to take risks. 
 
I'd also like to think that the early Nineties proved that original, more niche anime could prove profitable and bring critical acclaim to a station. Of course, they would never generate the huge amount of cash that series like Dragonball Z or Sailor Moon, but series like Cowboy Bebop or the works of Yoshitoshi Abe have proven to have lasting appeal. And there is that giant elephant in the room that is called Evangelion*.
 
@metalsnakezero:
I wouldn't call Darker than Black OVA-material. While it is an original work (i.e., not based on a prior manga), it's not really "indie": it doesn't really break from its shounen mold, nor pushes the envelope into the "EXTREME" category. Oh god, I've opened up the horrible can of worms that is the question of "indieness", haven't I? 
 
*Not that I doubt its significance, but I always feel a huge nagging sensation in attributing everything to 1 thing. History is never this clear cut. 
 
Oh and Tom, I'm going to go into "that guy" mode here: It's Steven Seagal, not Segal.
Whiskeyjackon July 17, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.
In the early days I always thought it was funny that direct-to-video in the Western marketplace meant it was low-budget garbage, but with OVAs, the quality was often significantly higher than their TV show brethren (the original Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki is the first that comes to mind). At least in my little corner of the world.
FoxxFireArt moderator is online on July 18, 2010 at 2:27 a.m.
Yeah, concise is not something I'm very adept at. It's one of the various reasons that I adopted the Comic Vine review technique when I write my reviews on Anime Vice and elsewhere. It keeps me within a structure that helps keep me from becoming too verbose.
 
Sometimes I wonder if OVAs are on occasion used as weather balloons for series. Drop one out there and see what kind of feedback you get and worthy of further investment. It's happened before. There was an OVA I heard of called KissXSis. Last I heard, it got a series about a year or so later. 
 
Not to mention, the majority of hentai OVAs are specifically targeted. They know it would never be produced for regular televised broadcasting. So, they make and ship directly to their audience.
Count_Zeroon July 18, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.
@FoxxFireArt said:
"Sometimes I wonder if OVAs are on occasion used as weather balloons for series. Drop one out there and see what kind of feedback you get and worthy of further investment. It's happened before. There was an OVA I heard of called KissXSis. Last I heard, it got a series about a year or so later."
That would explain Submarine 707R. I remember that the first thing that came in my mind after I watched that show (which was an OVA, despite being listed in the system as a movie) was "Back-Door Pilot"
Gaseroon July 18, 2010 at 9:38 a.m.
I could go for some good OVAs. It seems like there are way too many long run anime series these days, and most of them are generic or incomprehensible (where the heck do you start if you wanna catch up on One Piece?).
 
I would like to see more of 2 things. 1) 13 episode series/seasons where there is a well crafted plot and character arc. 2) Well designed OVA which wants to hook you on a story, tell it, and get out.
 
I feel that more of those two things will clear up some of the clutter airing on TV these days.
yuetheguardianon July 18, 2010 at 12:57 p.m.

Now adays we have a simular idea called the OAD which are bundled with manga and ussually represent a anime closer to the manga, a few shows like Negima and Tsubasa have had OADs
agila61on July 18, 2010 at 5:47 p.m.
In its original broadcast, Cowboy Bebop was heading toward being "half-OVA", with only 2, 3, 7-15 and 18 airing in TV Tokyo, and only in full on the satellite network WOWOW, and re-aired in Animax. 
Gozertcon July 18, 2010 at 8:10 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt said:
Sometimes I wonder if OVAs are on occasion used as weather balloons for series. Drop one out there and see what kind of feedback you get and worthy of further investment. It's happened before. There was an OVA I heard of called KissXSis. Last I heard, it got a series about a year or so later.   Not to mention, the majority of hentai OVAs are specifically targeted. They know it would never be produced for regular televised broadcasting. So, they make and ship directly to their audience. "

Not to be too picky but did you mean "Trial Balloon?"  
 
Other than that I agree since an OVA can have a nice investment but not as much as a series would require.  So you can do your "test concept" send it out there and see how the public reacts to it.  
Count_Zeroon July 18, 2010 at 9:13 p.m.
Come to think about it, there have been two OVA series that immediately spring to mind that led into semi-major franchises. Patlabor went from a 6 Episode OVA into a three films, a major television series, a spinoff OVA from the TV series, and a manga. (It also helped cement Mamoru Oshii and Kazunori Ito's reputations after their work on Urusei Yatsura). 
 
The next one that springs to mind is Tenchi Muyo, which lead to three OVA series two TV series, and three motion pictures, plus a manga and some novels. 
hitsusatsu11on July 18, 2010 at 9:21 p.m.
Ova's aren't dead. 
 
Hellsing ultimate Ova 
Gundam Unicorn Ova 
 
Both highly successful OAV series'. 
N15PCAon July 18, 2010 at 9:28 p.m.

You hit it on the mark.   
 
I'm really glad that the reverse happen when seaons one and two of Black Lagoon were on TV and that the 3 seaon to Black Lagoon is an OVA.  That is nice change of pace.  To see a anime that is a regluar tv show that need to get another season with the OVA treatment. 
 
I have to say the best OVA's come from the 1990's.  
 
Golden Boy. 
Sakura Diaries. 
GunSmith Cats. 
AD Police. 
Oh My Goddess!. 
Tenchi Muyo!. 
Record Of Lodoss War. 
Bastard!!. 
 
 

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