A Look at the 1980’s Anime OVA Legacy

In the anime video distribution realm, there is one particular model that has either died out already or is on its last breath in the iron lung ward, and that is the market for direct-to-video Japanese animation. If the term “OVA” doesn’t ring a bell, or if you never really knew which anime are categorized as OVAs, chances are you’ve seen those titles first-hand at some point in your anime collecting hobby. You can go to any local pawn shop, flea market, or mom-and-pop video store and you can eight times out of ten pick up an anime that was considered a direct to video release in Japan before that title was licensed in the states… to be also sold as direct to video.

The OVA landfill...
The 1980’s OVA landfill…

The 1980’s had a landfill of OVA’s that people mostly rented from their local video stores and took home their evening entertainment in the company of themselves or with a group of like minded anime fanatic individuals. All they had to do was press play and the creative force of an animation studios hard (or cheap) works will fill the eyes and ears of its audience for a mere hours worth of enjoyment (or pain, depending). Now, granted in America, they have a direct to video market also, but it has had no where close to the same impact that it had in Japan during the 1980s. The testament to this market came down to an individual in Japan who had the use of a VCR to watch their anime, and VCRs over the years became just as standard to households like an oven is to the kitchen, as well as a TV is to the living room.

The term OVA means “Original Video Animation,” and some will debate that it could be OAV for “Original Animation Video.” It’s the same kind of debate as when people talk about how to say caramel, or potato, or tomato, it all serves the same purpose in the end. OVA titles were the first to be commercially available in the states through American anime publishers like AD Vision, AnimEigo, Central Park Media, Streamline Pictures, US Renditions, and Manga Entertainment. Before companies licensed from Japanese companies, tape trading happened in local comic, science fiction and early anime cons. People would go to their local convention to find fansub anime on VHS tapes through multiple generations of tape copying and trading, which most of those titles would be OVA’s in some form or fashion.

Some of the first companies to license and distribute OVAs in America are still around, or have faded away into obscurity. One company in particular that is still around is AnimEigo, which released in 1988 Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 and Vampire Princess Miyu in the same year. There, users can pay for the Blu-ray releases of AnimEigo’s current licensed properties. So far Bubblegum Crisis and Otaku no Video have been funded successfully, with the latter title to be shipped out to its backers early this year. On the other hand, some distributors have faded away into obscurity. In the 90s, Book Nippan shut down the U.S Renditions’ label in America. U.S Renditions released Gunbuster  and Dangaioh in March 1990 as their first titles. These were not complete releases, but the first OVA episodes of each series to be put out in the American market. As much as I would love to talk about anime companies and their history in publishing their anime titles, I shall save that story for a future upcoming post in due time.

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Across the Pacific, Japanese video stores were popping up left and right to meet the demand of the tape rental business during those years. Sadly the market popped when the Japanese economy did, which lead to the steady downfall of video stores going out of business. You would be surprised however that video, video games and music renting are still available in Japan these days, almost in comparison to America. Across the Pacific, stores like GEO are still in business and are able too cater to all three forms of media. There are however a large amount of OVA’s out there that some anime fans are still tracking down. Fansubbers are still trying to catalog, acquire, and translate OVAs for other fans to watch over the internet.

The first account of anime being made for direct to market purposes goes back to anime director Mamoru Oshii with titles such as Dallos (1983) and Angel’s Egg (1985). Traditionally, since anime became a medium in Japan in the early 1960’s with Astro Boy and Tetsujin 28 appearing on television, it seemed to be that, unless you made shows for Toei or Sunrise, the only way anime could get your shows approved was for committees to financially back them. With the help of smaller anime studios getting the funding they needed thanks to the huge economic bubble Japan was gloriously living under at the time, the OVA market flourished into a creator’s paradise. Anyone could make whatever they wanted to, which resulted with the good, the bad, and the bizarre. Regardless of the OVA’s that hold up and are remembered today, or are lost through the piles of obscurity, anime fans must owe a great deal of attention to this time period on how anime has changed from then to now.

The Good, The Bad, and the Bizarre…

Good

Bubblegum_Crisis_Knights_Sabre_h1Bubblegum Crisis – If I had to make a solid list of my favorite anime that will last to the end of time, this 8 part OVA series will be right at the time. Bubblegum Crisis came out in 1987 by studio ARTMIC that despite the issues that it has in terms of plot holes and the occasional Engrish showing up, Bubblegum Crisis remains one of the anime titles that has the 80’s written all over it. When digging around while watching Bubblegum Crisis, you can see American pop culture and film icons throughout the OVA. It centers around 4 females and their desire to fight the Megacorproation GENOM in their state-of-the-art armored bodysuits (dubbed “hardsuits” in the show).Bubblegum Crisis might not be the perfect girlfriend, but she does one thing very well for herself when you spend an evening with her, and that’s to be a whole lot of fun! I will let this GaGa Communications trailer tell you all about this OVA (but only to a point, since it’s not about “a rock singer and her 3 girlfriends”). Currently Licensed by AnimEigo.

Forgotten Junk: Gaga Communications' trailer for Bubblegum Crisis – "Futurescape"

61b4f30d42342e23ffdfccf13232056aMegazone 23 – If Bubblegum Crisis is considered the pinnacle of the 80s blended into animation, then what if an anime made during the 80s was set in the actual 1980s… or so you thought! Although Megazone 23 did come before Bubblegum Crisis, its setting and tone is a straight mirror of Japan’s love for 80s pop culture. This 3 part OVA by Noboru Ishiguro takes you on a wild ride with motorcycle gangs, transforming robots, fighting with the man, teenage angst, and romance all bundled up in one package. Part 1 was first released by Streamline Pictures in 1994, and it wasn’t until years later that ADV acquired the license for all 3 parts to be made available in the states with a brand new dub included on the ADV DVD release in 2007.

Metal Skin Panic Madox 01 – Being one of AnimEigo’s first releases, Madox 01 is just a fun little OVA that will give you a evenings worth of entertainment. This features a boy (portrayed by a junior college mechanic) and his robot (a highly top secret bi-pedal machine that falls into said boy’s apartment from the interstate… just see this for yourself) that must do everything he can to hold off an American tank commander named Kilgore. Kilgore plans on stopping our protagonist from reaching his ultimate goal, to stop his girlfriend from leaving Japan to study abroad. That is literally the plot of this anime, and can be summed up in one song by the guys behind Fast Karate for the Gentleman. I told you it was a fun little OVA to checkout. Currently licensed by AnimEigo.

Forgotten Junk: Gaga Communications' trailer for MADOX-01 – "City of Steel"

To-Y – This was an OVA that was never licensed in the states, but if you are a musically talented person to the level of once being in a local garage band in your neighborhood, then this is worth a look (this did come on American television once in the late 1980’s according to Mike Toole entry in Colony Drop). To-Y is about the 1980’s Japanese music business, with a scrap-together band trying not to get undercut by their music producers pop star heartthrob. This also has some fun visuals when the music starts going, so it’s very remenicant of 80’s MTV music videos during that era. You can easily find it on YouTube these days.

gunbuster

Gunbuster – This 6 episode OVA comes from the creative staff of studio GAINAX. This involved a lot of great talent from character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto, mechanical designers Koichi “M.D. Geist” Ohata with Kazutaka Miyatake and was one of Hideaki Anno first directorial roles. It’s considered to be in some ways the predecessor to Neon Genesis Evangelion, and if you are a fan of Evangelion you can spot some of the references in the characters especially. This basically involves a young girl named Noriko who must save the universe and get over her own personal issues to pilot the giant Gunbuster robot IN SPACE!!! U.S. Renditions originally put out the OVA in the 1990s, but Bandai released the DVD set in 2007. Currently it’s out of print in America.

Otaku No Video – Speaking of studio GAINAX productions, this 2 part OVA is a comedic “mockumentary” about studio GAINAX origins, which is filled with an interesting outlook at anime fandom in the 1980’s. This also includes live action interview segments with “otaku” as they are asked a variety of questions that most nerds in general already know and identify with. This OVA is soon to be re-released by AnimEigo on Blu-Ray earlier this year.

Area 88 – This 3 part OVA centers around a manga adaptation about the protagonist Shin Kazama survival with a Middle East mercenary group at the airbase “Area 88.” The story goes that Shin Kazama is betrayed by his best friend into being enlisted into the mercenary flight group stationed at Area 88, and must fulfill his contract with them without dying in order to be reunited with his sweetheart. This originally came out by Central Park Media in the 1990’s, then later was licensed and distributed by ADV on DVD in the mid 2000’s.

bobbyboxBobby’s Girl – This one shot OVA by studio Madhouse tells the story of Bobby, a late teen boy who loves nothing more than to ride his blue motorcycle. It’s a story about our prtagonist Bobby journey into becoming an adult and what it means to be a man over time. What makes Bobby’s Girl stand out is its visuals, which are a testament to studio Madhouse for 1985 animation standards. For fans of Marcie Blane, this anime title is the same as her hit song, and a different rendition of the song was done for the credits at the end. This is found fansubbed online and there is no telling when this will see a release in America.

Bad

51NXGVKBJ6L._SY300_Black Lion – It’s hard to say if Black Lion is the best one shot OVA from Go Nagai or one of the worst, but despite Black Lion having a goofy plot and below subpar voice acting, it does one thing well that it was meant to do, and that is to entertain the audience. If you watch Black Lion, go in to it like you would a Fast and Furious movie, by checking your brain at the door. If you don’t, you won’t experience the grand masterpiece that is Go Nagai true talent at work. The plot is simple, ninjas try to stop an unstoppable other ninja guy, and it keeps getting more ridiculous from there. If you really want to know what’s in Black Lion, then here is a video about it(warning: this spoils the anime in case you were wanting to check it out with fresh eyes. NSFW due to violent content).

MD Geist – It’s hard to name the worst anime ever made, but many may agree that M.D. Geist is in the top three on that chart. This anime seems to get the automatic notion of being the “worst anime ever” by the online anime community, but these are accusations made by those who hear it’s bad, but have never seen it themselves. I can assure you M.D. Geist is not the worst anime I have ever seen, and may actually be the best anime ever created, just as those who also say Plan 9 from Outer Space is the greatest film ever made. All you need to know is that M.D. Geist is the MOST DANGEROUS anime ever made, and you will witness that for yourself first-hand. If you want a plot, here it is: blonde guy in a mullet shoots the hell out of things, and brings such hell with him. It’s also 2 OVA’s, one made a decade later thanks to the funding efforts of one John O’Donnell of Centeral Park Media.

Forgotten Junk: Gaga Communications' trailer for M.D. Geist – "Thunder Warrior"

MV5BMTU5NTU4NDU5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjg2Mjc5._V1_SX214_AL_Angel Cop – Part of the “Manga (UK) Holy Trinity of Suck” anime line (as quoted from Anime World Order). I will say without a doubt that Angel Cop is one of my favorite anime ever, and I will say with great doubt that it is not that great. But, God willing, this baby tries so hard to be. This is the ultimate “check your brain at the door and do not care about what you are seeing” anime you will ever see, and I cannot say too much because I want you reader to witness the shear amazing effort of blending violence and creative swearing into one 6 episode OVA package.

Madbull34Mad Bull 34 – If Angel Cop is the equivilant of anime being an elegant dining experience, than Mad Bull is the force of frat boys rushing in to a 5 star restaraunt with pizza, hookers and beer ready to wreck stuff up and have a hell of a time doing it. Continuing the “Manga Holy Trinity of Suck,” Mad Bull is an anime that just doesn’t care one bit on having a blast and taking you for a ride in the process. I’d say get ready to be more offended than Angel Cop with this 4 part OVA fun fest, with out your neighbors knowing. You can get this from Discotek Media on DVD.

9a6fce1d52d38f3ff58c2bf424345f851402519465_fullViolence Jack – To make up the last of the Manga Holy Trinity of Suck, I have an anime you may have to cleanse yourself of your sins after watching, and to never speak of its horrors. In this 3 part OVA (one of them being the worst offender to the senses thanks to the directorial efforts of Ichiro Itano, who also directed Angel Cop/Megazone 23 Part 2), get ready to see hell in its most literal form in anime. This may be for some their personal “worst anime ever,” and they would have a good right to say that over the likes of M.D. Geist. Currently available on DVD from Discotek Media.

Bizarre

Angel’s Egg – Over 30 years since its first release, it is still an anime that people who have seen it still want to talk about. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, this depicts a young girl holding an egg precious to her, in a world of underlying biblical themes and analogies. Many have written thesis and dissertation over this anime, with Brian Run being the most academic one when he published his thoughts on the OVA in his Stray Dog of Anime book. To an anime that will seem confusing to the first time viewer, you can still see how very unique the visuals look for its time. Oshii is a director who that adds purpose to every shot in his anime, despite the fact he can’t remember why he put it there years later. The only English commercial release for Angel’s Egg is spliced through a live action movie called In The Aftermath, but even watching it through that version will not make it any better to watch, so fansubs are your best bet.

Dragon’s Heaven – This OVA hails from the mind of mechanical designer Makoto Kobayashi, who is better known for his mechanical designs in the Mobile Suit Zeta and Double Zeta Gundam series, and is all about that Gundam in general. Dragon’s Heaven is a unique looking anime that is full of odd looking design works that seem to be disproportionate and non-functional to how anime fans have seen robots look in anime. Kobayashi mechanical designs seem to be more organic looking than the fine lined, straight-edged robots fans have been seeing for almost 30 years at this point. Despite the odd mechanical designs, the story is as solid as you can get in about 30 minutes before a 15 minute live action “making of” video is tacked on at the end to show off Kobayashi designs being modeled by the staff of the anime. This is again one of those titles that is fansubbed online and may or may not ever make here in America.

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California Crisis: Gun Salvo – This was only one of the few titles released by a small “fly-by-night” studio Unicorn that didn’t seem to stay around to make its big mark in anime, but managed to make something unique that anime fans still mention today. California Crisis is clearly a romanticist’s look at American (or Californian) culture in the 1980’s. It’s also an anime that with everything you see on screen, never seems to stop moving between action scenes, the thick black lines on people and objects, and the musical soundtrack by Miho Fujiwara. California Crisis is something interesting look at once as a fan of anime and animation, and to see if its charm will stick with you long after you see it. California Crisis shows it’s a product of the OVA boom in the 1980’s, and fans are not sure when something like this to be made ever again again in today’s anime market. There is no telling if California Crisis will ever get released in the states, and it may be left to the fansub community to keep it alive, so your best bet to see this is through the internet.


What I have listed before you is what I consider a good start into anime OVA’s that are quick and easy to enjoy (or maybe hate, depending on the person who watches them). There are so many more OVA’s out there I would love to list, and the 1990’s has even better quality ones to add that I won’t in the post in order to keep it to the point. Yet at the same time, there are some even more god awful OVA’s from the 1980’s and 1990’s that should maybe or maybe not be known to the public. If you as an anime fan have never seen an anime OVA before and were not sure where to start, I hope this post can help you get started with what I have recommended. The only thing close to an equivalent to anime today that 80’s OVA’s did are the shorter anime shows that last but a couple of minutes but give you an entire story in that time frame that can easily entertain you. If you can find a physical copy to buy of any of the titles I mentioned to show to other people you know, then do it! Most of these titles should be affordable for anime fans to get ahold of, so don’t resort to piracy to watch them if you can help it.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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44 Comments

  1. Zippydsmlee
    1

    The Guyver, Proejct A-ko and Outlanders are worth mentioning too.

    • Zippydsmlee
      0

      And Fist of the North Star,even if the OVA is hella simplistic.

      • DustinKop

        You made some great mentions, but Fist of the North Star and Project A-ko would not be on this list since Project A-ko was a theatrical release and Fist of the North Star was a television show with a theatrical release to sum up the first half of the series.

        Outlanders isn’t all that bad and I understand fans like it when it was released in the states. I didn’t add The Guyver because I don’t know too much about it, and the original Guyver OVA “Out of Control” I didn’t think it was all that great from what I remember. I understand that the 12 episode OVA released in ’89 seems to be the better one to check out.

        This was just a brief list to put out there to make people aware of what is available to see for themselves. I am open for other people opinions on OVAs also to add in the comments so people who read this can hear from others.

        • Zippydsmlee
          0

          Macross 7 has a luke warm detached lead character, he dose not change or grow much but its more the random story lines and acouple bad fighter designs that can put you off of it. Tho since I like stuff like Sailor moon,ranma 1/2 and tenchi I do not think I could notice wonky story issues LOL

          I do not really nit pick Anime to death, I’ll do it with live action anyday of the week but with Anime I enjoy the world setting and lore a bit more than the generic characters and stories. Tho I do loath Queens Blade/VD:Mermaid and To luv ru… I love me some ecchi but good god ifs its just pure titillation with no pay off I’ll take a pass. LOL

  2. Zippydsmlee
    0

    I think some of the stuff pre 91/92 can be included in the 80s list, simply because by the time it got on video tape the OVA was not technically much better than the film/TV it was just a matter of production time and editing more than anything else.

    I never did like it but Lupin III is also not a bad mention, but I guess you are sticking to OVA only? Crying Freeman 1: Portrait of a Killer was in 88 I think, it was okay not really to my taste but at least watchable, same for Glogo 13 which I could barely stand.

    The 12 ep Guvyer series was alot better.

    80s Anime wise BGC is top shelf stuff one of my all time favs ,did not care much for 2040 at the time it came out to many changes for me to like it. SDF Macross and SDF Southern Cross were pretty darn good,Dragon Ball was good, Trying to watch Tekkaman but I kinda enjoyed techno man more as Tekkman is a we bit corny at times but what is not in the 80s LOL

    90’s Anime wise Ranma 1/2 is one of my favs, Tenchi, Slayers is fun, Magic Knight Rayearth was good, DBZ was not that annoying, the 12 part Gundam 08th OVA is one of my top fav of the series, 00 and Recongisa in G are in my top 5 for Gundam shows. Macross 7 is a nightmare tho I kinda enjoyed it despite itself tho and the new one,Delta makes my brain hurt….can we go back to a rock band…plz?. LOL

    I can droll on forever ><

    • DustinKop

      I technically cheated with Mad Bull and Black Lion since they were after ’89 if I recall. But since I started with Manga UK GREATEST (Piece of Shite) HITS I had to keep them on there, felt right doing it.

      As much as I love Crying Freeman, I left it off the list to keep it simple and short. I’d say anyone that wants to go further in the OVA spectrum of something that is in the “bizarre” category, then Crying Freeman is your bag. I won’t say to much on it because I want that to be a surprise to someone asking “What is a Crying Freeman?” It was also put out by Streamline Pictures in the early 1990s just FYI.

      Golgo 13 was a theatrical film, and I would totally add that to this list if this list wasn’t specific in OVAs only. Maybe my next list needs to just be “80’S ANIME TO WATCH BECAUSE EFF’IT I DON’T CARE!” I also love me some Golgo 13… immensely. I have a poster of him on my wall, and an M-16 airsoft gun with a Bushnell scope attached to it, I kid you not.

      I still haven’t gotten around to Macross 7, but I have heard that one to be you love it or hate it, same with Delta. I am welcome to more titles to list by anyone else, the more the merrier!

  3. Campos
    1

    Mobile Suit Gundam, Fist of the North Star, Project A-ko and Akira were my introductions to anime.

  4. cole
    0

    I was one of those kids fueling the anime scene in the early 90’s spending hundreds (maybe thousands) on Ranma 1/2 VHS tapes and anything else I could get my hands on.

    • DustinKop

      That sounds like you fueling the VIZ anime train for them to become what it is today. Which, isn’t all that bad really.

  5. teeser
    0

    Does anyone remember that anime about a kid soccer player who was in some sort of professional league? I think it aired in Japan in the 80’s.

    • DustinKop

      I wonder if you are thinking of Captain Tsubasa. This was what Google got me:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Tsubasa

      This is a show I haven’t seen either, I’d have to do a post on notable sports anime one day, and when the next World Cup comes around, maybe focusing on Futbal series would fit.

    • Rey
      0

      Captain Tsubasa? A classic for every football and anime fan.

  6. Luce
    0

    What’s weird is that all that 1980s stuff is anime to me.

  7. oork
    1

    Yet another great anime article! I salute you all!

  8. Bookmarked. A lot of shows on that list that I’m interested in viewing. Damn anime backlog.

  9. Robbin
    0

    A little while ago I started to ask my self “What was the first OVA ever release”? Do you know? Well let’s go all the way back to September 10, 1980. You might of heard of it, an anime show called “The Rose of Versailles (Also known as Lady Oscar)” as recently ended (9/3/80). So two weeks later an OVA came out that ran for 30 minutes. Before that, their was no recorded OVA released. Later on in 1983 (dec) an OVA was released (with no anime series attached) called “Dallos”. Mamoru Oshii created the OVA and according to wiki “It is widely considered the first OVA ever released”. Of course this anime was a flop and barley remembered.

    • DustinKop

      Well Dallos is a flop that we can own in America thanks to Discotek Media. They seem to be more of a preservation society than a typical anime company, which is fantastic to me.

      I don’t know much of The Rose of Versailles, but I will get around to watching it eventually since it is available from RightStuf. I would assume the 30 minute special was put out straight to video in some way, or was it aired on TV as a special? I am glad you mentioned that in the comments.

  10. Jay Justus
    0

    So much good stuff. Classics I’m watching currently:
    Legend of the Galactic Heroes
    Maison Ikkoku
    Touch
    City Hunter
    Future Boy Conan
    Galaxy Express 999

    • DustinKop

      I was up in the air about adding Legend of the Galactic Heroes on the list. I left it out due to me not having seen enough of it, and for the reason that OVA series is 110 episodes long, which I felt was an over bearing task to put it next to the titles I had since you can finish up a story within an hour at the latest. However, LOGH is still good and its up to anyone to check it out.

  11. Franco
    0

    Future Boy Conan intrigues me immensely. I love Laputa, I must find this series.

  12. Annmarie
    0

    Battle Royale High School is my second favorite anime by Ichiro Itano.

  13. Eulah
    0

    Very good, perhaps. But are they essential?

    • DustinKop

      I think essential in some sense, but I don’t want my list to be a DEFINITIVE COLLECTION!! kinda thing. In my mind, I thought the titles would be a good starting point for people who would be interested in 1980s OVAs if they want something quick and easy, while at the same time be entertained and find satisfying to watch.

  14. Mckinnon
    1

    Thanks man that was very good you just made my day!

  15. Lauralee
    0

    Excellent post.

  16. Wang
    0

    My nomination for a crappy OVA is Battle Royal High School, which remains the only video I have ever seen to come with a note from the company which translated it and released it in English apologizing because it is so terrible. They got it as part of a licensing job lot and couldn’t get out of releasing it. It’s even worse than you’d expect from its coming with a disclaimer.

    • DustinKop
      0

      That was how AnimEigo got Boah. Baoh was included in a pile of titles to license in sort of a bulk package thing, which is the best way I can describe what Mr. Woodhead told me in an old podcast interview a few years back. I’d imagine it was all in that same bundle, probably with Genesis Survivor Gaiarth. But hey, Battle Royale High School is still stupid fun.

  17. POND
    1

    A lot of these titles are just fun, I really love all these ovas you named.

  18. kill
    0

    Thanks I all ways wondered about it OVAs.

  19. Nice article. I was always wary about old anime because of fear of the unknown, but I feel like this was a nice intro xD

    • DustinKop
      0

      Well I hope it helps you out in checking out some of these titles.

  20. Jefferey
    0

    I’ve seen one of these ova.

  21. Lipscomb
    0

    Their existence upon the Earth has failed to ever impact my life in any meaningful way.

    • DustinKop

      You sound like you got a good head on your shoulders, not letting anime impact you. I find it ironic leaving a comment like that in an area that doesn’t impact your life at all, can you explain why?

  22. Correa
    0

    I’m a little disappointed that I’ve only seen two of these.

  23. gordon
    0

    Though I’ve only seen a couple things on this list, one OVA I bothered finding on eBay that I curiously bought was called “TWD EXPRESS Rolling Takeoff”. I haven’t seen the darn thing yet but I see someone stuck it on YouTube anyway. Just thought I pass it along.

  24. DustinKop
    0

    That’s actually pretty cool you brought that up, I will have to check and see if there is a fansub version of that out there.

  25. Tiffany
    txl
    0

    I’d always wondered at the origins of OVAs as a form (and why it was so separate from, say, series pilot episodes or the like). This is a fascinating timeline!

  26. I’m interested in this idea of the OVA as something of a non-American construct; the American entertainment apparatus (which in turn influences all others) is heavily focused drawing out as much value from a given property; an OVA might be regarded as a side-story or pilot to American audiences (as they were on occasion in Japan), rather than an end in its own right. It did exist at during a brief moment in time, and I do think something was lost (Giant Robo, to me, stands as a pinnacle of the style despite being cut short).

    The most analogous format in Western media would be the British sitcom, which tends to run six to twelve episodes (in the tradition of Fawlty Towers), though they are generally intended for broadcast.

    I think there is some further discussion to be had on the American side of things; many of the early series brought over were OVAs, and it made a lot of sense to bring over short series (since the market was quite niche) of high quality (which OVAs tended to be). I’d be interested in a historical analysis of which OVAs were being brought over in the early days, which might give us some insight into the perceived/actual audience for early anime.

    • DustinKop

      If I am going to explore more on the anime market in America, I can do some research on how companies in America got the license to OVA titles and why. Some of those stories I know, and others I don’t know entirely. I think the easiest answer is how much cheaper they were to acquire than say a television series, especially when you compare how Harmony Gold got Macross, Mospeda and Southern Cross compared to AnimEigo getting Madox 01. I will look into what I know on some history on how companies got the titles they did in a later post, which again is going to take me some time to gather all that info up.

  27. Vinz
    0

    You really need to add Area 88 all the way at the top under “Good” although just “good” seems a bit underplaying it. In fact I prefer it to the TV series, because, by virtue of A: the manga not being finished yet and B: no expectation of continuation, ends FAR darker than the manga and tv series. Which actually turns out to suit the anti-war message, while the TV series runs into that problem of promoting “heroic war” like most hollywood movies once the true villain is IDed and confronted. The OVA meanwhile is absolutely nothing but trauma and bleakness and a nihilistic acceptance of ‘the end.’ Kinda wish someone would blackbag Oliver Stone and show it to him, I think he’d really dig it. After he recovered from crying like a baby.

    There’s an odd bit of a feedback loop in the creation of the TV series actually. Nearly every Japanese flight sim has numerous references to the original + manga-up-til-that-time, some bringing in the iconic planes of the series as well (plus there’s those two arcade shmups of course that are all sci-fi ish) The TV series feels as if it’s an author’s fanfic of his own works, as it incorporates elements THOSE game franchises (Ace Combat being the biggest culprit) introduced into “Japanese Flight Combat Lore) into the original story, as well as introducing a couple new characters who’ve become archetypes within those franchises. As such people actually live longer than ten minutes upon introduction and there’s some light or even comical moments sprinkled about. Aside from the New Yorker in the original, Mick, there’s no funniness anywhere, and he’s only a comedian because he’s pure crackers like Adam Baldwin’s character in Full Metal Jacket. He went to Vietnam and “Found his one true love he’d been searching for all his life. Killing.” I never saw any official confirmation but it feels like his character is also a dig at the ‘suave hollywood flyboys’ like in Top Gun and Iron Eagle. He’d probably have elements of Maniac too if Wing Commander had been released 10 years earlier. By contrast, Shin, Kitori, and the fatalistic Boris, are the only fully serious mains in the TV series.
    The Ace Combat closest to the OAV is probably Belkan War, since it deals with a lot of trauma and betrayal, while the others have their bits of rousing “look, the player is here, ALL IS SAVED cue the awesome dogfight music”

    I’d also rec Darkside Blues for “weird” which gets about as many instantaneous responses as MD Geist does for worst. It’s even weird FOR being weird because it feels like you SHOULD understand the setting based on the archetypes and dialogue flow, but then completely out of place stuff is thrown at you, that the characters react to as if it’d been there all along. It feels like you only got 1/3rd of the storyline, but the characters are responding to the full script. The tone seems set when you’re introduced to a Shadowrun-esque futuristic dystopia with an active rebellion, but then the main protag (but not main hero) is a guy who teleports everywhere by using a horse-drawn carriage. As expected for the time period, yes they explain it away as “psychic powers.” Probably the most amusing element to me of the OVA period, was that “psychic” with no codifier is THE top-tier superpower. It always implies, from X1999, to Darkside Blues, to the literal-named Locke the Superpower, that you can bend reality at will effortlessly.
    (Lucifer in Angel Cop swings a bit that way at times too)
    It actually feels like some sort of odd expressionist ‘magic realism’ piece.

    I can’t really think of one that could fit into ‘bad’ because as you said in the list, even the bad ones have their odd charms, and by being only 1-4 episodes long don’t really wear out their welcome. And sometimes while the original is as boring as waiting for grass to grow, they’d inevitably get dubbed by the worst possible team New York had to offer, and so gain immense entertainment value in their badness like Dark Cat.

    *cough* oh yeah short short good rec: Pet shop of horrors. It’s a bit of a ‘taste’ of 4 different stories from the manga, 3 one-shots, and the 4th was kind of a hopeful “maybe we can continue?” shot in the dark. Really nice little horror anime, not too well known outside of ‘fangirl’ circles, and only remembered there due to the prettyboy antagonist.

    • DustinKop

      I actually finished up Area 88 before I finished this article, so based on how that OVA ended I was really impressed and kinda bummed by the events at the end.

      I wanted my list to be looked at as titles that are equally blocked together than being on a list system depending on what came first and what came last. Area 88 to me is equally just as important as Gunbuster or Bubblegum Crisis and the other “good” titles I had provided above. It’s not to say that it ranks lower on the good list than Megazone 23 or Madox 01 (it is far better than Madox, lol), but I made this list as grouping titles together in one area. If you look, you see that I didn’t number anything, meaning it doesn’t have a ranking value.

      I’ve played little of Ace Combat over the years, but you make a really good comparison, so I give you that. I also give you props for mentioning Iron Eagle, I own and love all those films on 3 different video formats (DVD, VHS, and the last movie on Laserdisc). True fact, I was born on the day Iron Eagle came out, so I am kinda bonded to that movie for life haha.

      I also stuck with titles that I knew and I’ve seen, because I can say something about them from a personal experience than from the list of “titles that everyone says it’s good.” I haven’t seen Darkside Blues, but I do know of it and have known about it for many years as an anime fan. That is something I will get to watching one day, so thanks for putting that in the comments.

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