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Why Are OVAs Formatted Like TV Episodes?

by Justin Sevakis,

Alec asks:

I am a big fan of both Gunbuster and Diebuster and have noticed that both contain an opening video and framing for a commercial break. I am assuming that Diebuster was merely following the lead of Gunbuster in this regard. But as for Gunbuster, was this put in place in case it ever managed to make it to TV, either post release or during development? And was this a standard practice among OVAs of the time or just a One Off for Gunbuster?

It's not just Gunbuster. Indeed, most half-hour format OVAs made in the late 80s and early 90s were made like TV shows, with an opening, ending, and an eyecatch in the middle. Most of the time, they were even edited to be 23-25 minutes long, in case commercials were added. This is because being an OVA was just a marketing term in the first place. Many OVAs eventually got broadcast on TV in some way, and some were even planned for TV broadcast from the beginning! Other times, a show that was meant to be a TV series got instead released direct-to-video, and nobody bothered to change the structure of the show to hide that.

Western fans tend to pay way, way, way too much attention to whether something is a TV series, OVA or a movie. The format of an anime production is often quite fluid. OVAs get aired on TV and got played in movie theaters. TV series got recut and played as movies. TV series got cancelled and ended up released as OVAs. I guess early in American fandom, the idea of an OVA, a mysterious, no-holds-barred direct-to-video anime with near-theatrical quality animation was a fascinating thing, but really it's just a means to an end. A smart anime producer will try to get their show released in any way possible to make as much money as possible. The format they initially chose to release their show is a short-term business decision. As a consumer years after the fact, that choice is pretty inconsequential.

There are, of course, plenty of OVAs that are so out there that nobody would ever show them on television or put them in theaters. But then again, even hentai OVAs (Urotsukidoji) have gotten international theatrical runs, so you really never know.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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