Anime Formats

Like American cartoons, anime is regularly produced in several different formats. Movies, TV shows, and direct-to-video-each of these formats are common for anime, and have different budgeting and scheduling requirements during production.

Let's take a brief look at each of these major formats.


There's a relatively small proportion of anime movies; however, they tend to be the biggest, most expensive works. The production quality is generally very high.

While there are stand-alone movies - studios such as Ghibli thrive on high-budget, original movies - most anime movies are based on an ongoing, popular TV show anime or a widely read manga. A TV series will gather a steady following, and the climax of its story arcs will be resolved in a movie release, as is the case with Neon Genesis Evangelion and Card Captor Sakura.

TV Shows

Most anime is produced for television in half-hour episodes with a single commercial break in the middle. A series will generally air weekly; a season is 13 episodes long.

Anime delivers complex, detailed narrative across seasons of TV shows, so that while it are necessarily episodic, the ongoing story is generally much more developed than is common in American TV.

Translated anime TV shows are generally sold at a slightly higher price than a domestic film, with two to four episodes on a single VHS tape or DVD. Opening and closing credits and music will be shown with each episode.


Original Video Animation - OVA - is the term for direct-to-video anime. OVAs do not have the stigma generally attached to direct-to-video films in America. Rather, the OVA format is viewed as a chance for the animators to create higher-budget, less restricted animation than TV shows.

In particular, OVA episodes tend to be of variable length, usually between 30 minutes and an hour-and sometimes longer than that. The freedom from the half-hour format of TV production allows for experimentation in pacing and story structure.

Translated OVAs are usually sold like TV shows, although the number of episodes per volume may differ. Remember, though, that you're probably not getting shafted; although you'll get one or two fewer episodes, they'll be longer and more movie-like than a TV series.

-Brian Kerr Click to learn more about Brian



Princess Mononoke cost $20 million to produce, making it Japan's most expensive animated film.





Near the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the producers ran into the budget problems common to TV series
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