• OVAs offer anime creators more creative freedom without the constraints of TV time slots or network censorship.
  • Some OVAs serve as prequels or spin-offs of popular anime series, allowing for exploration of new storylines and characters.
  • OVAs like Tokyo Ghoul: Jack and Voices of a Distant Star provide valuable additions to the main storylines and are recommended for fans of the series.

OVA stands for Original Video Animation. In simple terms, it refers to anime that goes straight to DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming instead of airing on TV or in theaters. OVAs give anime creators a lot more freedom since they don't have to worry about fitting into a half-hour TV time slot or appeasing network censors.

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Some OVAs are spin-offs of best anime shows, letting creators explore quirky "what if" scenarios or dive into backstories that wouldn't quite fit into the main plotline. Others are entirely original stories. Either way, you never know quite what to expect with an OVA.

10 Tokyo Ghoul: Jack

Tokyo Ghoul Arima extending his arm towards a blue butterfly

Tokyo Ghoul: Jack is a single-episode OVA that serves as a prequel to the main Tokyo Ghoul series. The OVA follows a young Arima Kishou, who later becomes the legendary CCG investigator, and his friend Taishi Fura, who joins the CCG with Arima.

We get glimpses into his innate fighting ability and keen intellect, as well as his strong sense of justice. Despite the short runtime, Arima emerges as a complex character. While Tokyo Ghoul: Jack may not rank higher on this list due to its short length and limited scope, it is still a significant addition to the main story and is highly recommended for fans of the series.

9 Gunbuster

Gunbuster characters including Noriko Takaya in OVA

The ‘80s were the golden age of OVAs in Japan – some of the most innovative anime came out during this time, including the classic Gunbuster. The story follows Noriko Takaya, an enthusiastic but untalented mecha pilot trainee, and her mentor Koichiro Ohta. They are humanity's last hope in a desperate war against an alien menace known as the Space Monsters.

For a direct-to-video release, the animation in Gunbuster holds up remarkably well. Dynamic robot fight scenes were complemented by director Hideaki Anno's inventive insights. In a sequence that was way ahead of its time, the final space battle takes place over thousands of years of time dilation effects due to relativity.

8 Detroit Metal City

Detroit Metal City rock bad with Negishi

Each episode of DMC is about 13 minutes long. The OVA is filled with absurd humor and heavy metal music, and it satirizes the world of underground rock culture. The story follows Soichi Negishi, a mild-mannered pop musician who moonlights as Johannes Krauser II, the frontman of the death metal band Detroit Metal City.

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The band gains a cult following for its outrageous performances, vulgar lyrics, and demonic imagery. At only 12 episodes, the show’s manic energy and subversive creativity never wear out their welcome.

7 Major: World Series

Major: World Series OVA final match

This is an OVA of the "Major" baseball anime series that consists of two episodes, released in 2011 and 2012. It is the final part based on the manga by Takuya Mitsuda. It perfectly culminates the story of Goro Honda as we see him compete in the World Cup.

He struggles to lead the Japanese team to victory and balance his role as a family man. Meanwhile, we witness the deep friendship between Goro and his rivals. From the pitcher-batter duels, fielding dynamics, locker room camaraderie, to the sheer passion of the fans, these moments ground the spectacle of the sports scenes and give the overall story heart.

6 Attack On Titan: No Regrets

Attack On Titan Levi backstory in OVA No Regrets

Attack on Titan: No Regrets is a two-part OVA series set in the Attack on Titan universe that provides backstory on Levi and Erwin Smith. It’s a gritty look at life in the Underground, a city beneath the Walls where Levi grew up. We see Levi's harsh upbringing and his struggles to survive in a place devoid of sunlight and hope.

The OVA does a fantastic job of developing Levi's character and showing how his difficult past shaped his aloof and pragmatic personality. When Erwin Smith recruits Levi into the Survey Corps, it gives Levi a chance at a better life. For once, Levi has found a force he can't simply slice through with his blades.

5 Hellsing Ultimate

Hellsing Ultimate

Hellsing Ultimate consists of 10 episodes, and it is an adaptation that stays closer to the source material compared to the earlier Hellsing TV series. Hellsing Ultimate follows the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, led by Integra Hellsing, as they protect Britain from supernatural threats like vampires and ghouls.

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The organization's trump card is Alucard, a powerful vampire who hunts his own kind. He is considered one of the best Gunslingers in anime, and the OVA does full justice to how formidable and fearsome he can be.

4 Voices Of A Distant Star

Voices Of A Distant Star by Makoto Shinkai

Voices of a Distant Star is a science fiction OVA written, directed, voiced, and produced by the renowned director of Your Name movie – Makoto Shinkai. He employs a unique blend of 2D animation and 3D CGI that lends a photorealistic quality to space scenes and mecha combat sequences.

His creativity in cinematography gives the film a contemplative tone that lingers with you. The themes of distance, love, and communication are central to the story, which is indeed similar in tone and subject matter to another of Makoto Shinkai's works, 5 Centimeters Per Second.

3 Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal

Samurai X Trust and Betrayal with Himura Kenshin and his first wife Tomoe Yukishiro

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal serve as a prequel to the popular Rurouni Kenshin anime series, telling the origin story of Himura Kenshin as a wandering swordsman in the Meiji era. The four-episode OVA delivers into Kenshin's past, exploring his relationships, motivations, and the events that shaped him into the character we see in the main series.

This is balanced with intense sword-fighting action scenes animated with fluidity and grace. Against this backdrop, the OVA explores the love story between Kenshin and his first wife Tomoe Yukishiro. Their doomed romance is the emotional heart of the OVA.


FLCL Haruko with her guitar

The 2000 anime series FLCL is one of the most entertaining OVAs ever made. FLCL follows Naota and the bizarre events that unfold in his small town after he is run over by a strange woman named Haruko who rides a yellow Vespa and wields an electric guitar. What makes FLCL truly special is its creative and exaggerated animation.

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The series is chock full of psychedelic and bizarre imagery, as well as frenetic action scenes that feature robots growing out of characters' heads, objects morphing into new shapes, and visual gags that come at you a mile a minute. FLCL was directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, who previously worked as an assistant director on the acclaimed anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.

1 Legend Of The Galactic Heroes

Reinhard and Yang from Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Spanning 110 episodes over 10 years from 1988 to 1997, Legend Of The Galactic Heroes features an epic space opera story set in the 36th century. The anime subverts many tropes of the genre. It follows two rival statesmen in a centuries-long interstellar war between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance.

Rather than purely focusing on interstellar action, it focuses more on politics and strategy. While the sheer scope and density of Legend of the Galactic Heroes can be daunting, those who invest in it will be rewarded with a moving story.

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