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OAV versus OVA: what's the difference? (12/16/03)

This last year, I stumbled upon an interesting debate. Previously, I had always thought that OAV (original animation video) and OVA (original video animation) were interchangable, both referring to direct-to-video anime releases in Japan. Fairly recently, however, I've been hearing people say that OVA is the legitimate term and OAV is completely wrong and has nothing to do with anime.

Perplexed by this perspective, I did some research to figure out what was going on.

The argument against OAV goes like this. In Japan, OVA is the correct term for anime because OAV refers to "original adult video". Apparently, this claim was made by a native Japanese person, giving it extra credibility.

Looking into this further, however, the argument seems shaky to me. In Japan, adult video is most commonly abbreviated as "AV". A little google search on "oav" and "original adult video" did not yield much in the way of adult video, Japanese or American. I have not seen any significant evidence that OAV commonly refers to "original adult video".

I have seen, however, evidence that OAV is used in the anime world, not just amongst fans, but in the industry as well. Various Japanese anime goods and magazines use "OAV". Then again, others use "OVA". So what's going on?

Finally, I searched on usenet to see what people were saying about this. The explanation that seemed most plausible to me was the following:

OAV was the original term used by the anime industry, but since it was so similar to "AV", some people in Japan got confused and linked OAVs with adult videos. In response, anime companies adopted OVA as the industry standard acronym instead of OAV (though some places still use OAV, I think).

That explanation seems satisfactory. It makes sense, appears to be credible, and it also explains why some people mistakenly think OAV = original adult video.

Personally, I always liked the sound of "OAV" more than "OVA". If anyone starts to correct you when you use "OAV", now you know what to tell them. ^_-

Of course, this is not completely conclusive, so alternative viewpoints are welcome.

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Last updated on December 10th, 2004
Lawrence Eng