Top 10 Best Original Video Animations (OVA’s or OAV’s)

I am at my 500th post!  Ever since I began this blog I haven’t really spent time on discussing original video animations, more popularly known as OVAs.  These are episodes produced exclusively for home video releases.  Often times a broadcaster will air these on television months or sometimes years later.  They often are marked as special episodes–adding something extra to a full-fledged TV series and sometimes we see brand news works originating out of OVAs. In 2008, the term OAD caught on–Original Animation DVD where typically these are bundled with source-material manga. (An example are the Attack on Titan OADs) Also, OVA episodes usually have a higher budget than TV series because they don’t have to follow a stringent schedule or timeblock deadlines. There is also no required length these episodes need to be.

What makes this list are OVAs that were tightly directed, a unique and/or beautiful style in animation, storytelling, music and characterization. If you’ve read my previous Top 10 then you’ll notice it’s in the same format as before.  Without further ado here is the list.

#10

Wasurenagumo

[From Young Animator’s Training Project 2012]

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This story involves the shopkeeper Suzuri of Kokumondou who sells historic books and Mizuki, granddaughter of the land owner. When Mizuki releases a somewhat cute young spider demon out of a sealed book, the pair investigate the origins behind it.

Animation Production: Production I.G. ( PSYCHO-PASSGhost in the ShellBlood+Blood-CBlood the Last VampireReal DriveReideenJoker GameSarusuberi: Miss HokusaiGiovanni’s IslandHaikyuu!!Guilty CrownLoups=GarousHigashi no EdenxxxHolic series and OVAs, FLCLThe Heroic Legend of Arslan 1991 film, Mobile Police Patlabor 1988 OVA and 1989 Film 1, Kill Bill Vol. 1 Animation Sequence, Otogi ZoshiWindy TalesGhost HoundTokyo Marble Chocolate OVA)

Director: Kaiya Toshihisa ( Key Animator on Naruto episodes 42, 44, 48, 56, 64, 68 and 92 / Key Animator on Robotics;Notes Second Opening Sequence / Animation Supervisor on Haikyuu!!‘s First and Second Opening Seqences and Second Ending Sequence / Character Designer on World Trigger)

Sceenplay: Daishiro Tanimura ( Series Composition on Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san / Script on Kuroko no Basuke episodes 11, 15 and 19 / Script on Suisei no Gargantia episodes 2, 5, 7, 10 and 12 / Script on Sakura Trick episodes 2, 4, 6 and 12)

Original Concept: Kaiya Toshihisa

Character Designer: Hideki Takahashi ( Key Animator on Summer Wars / Key Animator on Bleach Movie 4: Jigoku-hen / Key Animator on Toki o Kakeru Shoujo / Key Animator on PSYCHO-PASS 2 Second Opening Sequence / Key Animator on Shingeki no Kyojin‘s Second Opening Sequence / Animation Supervisor on Robotics;Notes‘ First and Second Opening and Ending Sequences / Key Animator on Neon Genesis Evangelion episode 7 / Key Animator on BLEACH episode 341)

Music: Yasuo Sugibayashi ( Music Composer on Tansuwarashi / Composer, Singer and Guitarist for the band Qujila)


Out of the four Young Animator Training Projects from 2012 (today this is known as Anime Mirai) this was the best. Ojii-san no Lamp utilized the best kind of narrative but after seeing this I can honestly say that this OVA contained a top notch in story, animation, characters and music.  The whole reason for the Animator Training Project is to allow for an animation studio’s newest talent to shine.  With that said, Production I.G. has amazing animators;  keep in mind that this animation was produced in 2012!  In the early 90’s well into the 2000’s, Production I.G. was known for creating original projects that maintained a consistent style in animation and storytelling.  While working on adapted animated works to keep a budget flowing within their office and to their staff.  Why couldn’t I.G.’s financing director give tips to Manglobe?  Because this studio knows what its doing.  Developing Higashi no Eden, Real Drive and the guts they had with Blood-C. Wasurenagumo is highly detailed–the fluidity of the animation is so amazing you might think this OVA was actually a film.  Seems that the Japanese Government funding this certainly paid off!  What really stood out for me was the art direction–it’s very dark but uses hues of light colors to accent the characters.

Then there are the well-cast of characters in this who are absolutely amazing and some of the best acting out of an OVA I’ve seen from the Mirai Project!  Suzuri and his assistant find themselves in a situation quite out of the ordinary–meeting a spider in the form of a girl.  In traditional Japanese folklore, there is a creature called the Jurogumo which has the body of a spider and the torso of a beautiful woman. The Jurogumo will attract men looking for love, only to quickly devour them after mating just like a real spider.  Lures men to their doom is very similar to the Siren from Greek mythology.  Throughout this OVA we are led to believe that this is a comedy–visually we are given a girl straight out of a moe series and to top it off the character designs look similar to a P.A. Works title.  The ending is mind blowing and totally not what I had expected.  Came out of left-field and makes me wonder why they couldn’t make more of this.  This would be a pretty decent series if it was even adapted for 1-cour.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10


#9

FREEDOM PROJECT

[7 episodes in total]

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Animation Production: Sunrise ( Cowboy BebopSpace Battleship Yamato (1975), Cyborg 009 (1979), Space Runaway IdeonCode GeassGintamaInuyashaLove Live! School Idol ProjectKakumeiki ValvraveMobile Suit GundamTenkuu no EscaflowneThe Big OKing of ThornsCity HunterTiger & BunnyGasarakiRanma 1/2Norageki!KurokamiSarusuberi: Miss HokusaiKoi SentoPlanetes)

Director: Shuhei Morita ( CGI Director on Gatchaman Crowds / Storyboard on Valvrave the Liberator episode 5 / Director on Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul A / Director and Script on Coicent / Director, Storyboard, Producer, CG and Editing on Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek / Director and Screenplay on Possessions)

Sceenplay: 

  • Dai Sato ( Script on Samurai Champloo episodes 5, 8, 9, 18 and 22 / Script on Space Dandy episodes 2, 6, 13 and 25 / Sript on Cowboy Bebop episodes 9, 14 and 23 / Script on Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East) episodes 3 and 8 / Screenplay on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Individual Eleven OAV and The Laughing Man OAV / Sript on Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna / Script on Toward the Terra episodes 12, 16 and 17)
  • Katsuhiko Chiba ( Series Composition and Script on Baby Steps / Script on Black Jack: The Two Doctors of Darkness / Script on Inuyasha / Script on Outlaw Star episodes 1-8, 10-13, 17, 21, 23-26 / Series Composition on Rune Soldier / Script on Mobile Suit Gundam Wing)

Original Concept: Katsuhiro Otomo

Character Designers: 

  • Atsushi Irie ( Key Animator on Coicent / Animation Director on Comet Lucifer episodes 7 and 12 / Character Designer, Animation Director and Key Animator on Steamboy / Key Animator on Tekkonkinkreet / In-Between Animator on Grave of the Fireflies / Animation Director Noein episode 17 / Key Animator on Tokyo Ravens‘ Opening Sequence)

Music: Yoshihiro Ike ( Music Composer on Blood the Last VampireErgo ProxyShisha no Teikoku: Empire of CorpsesHarmonyNoblesse AwakeningShingeki no Bahamut: GenesisKarasTiger & BunnyTelepathy Shojo Ran)


FREEDOM Project was a Japanese promotional work created by Nissin Cup Noodles under the direct supervision of famed Akira director and creator Katsuhiro Otomo.  This is actually one of the few anime (at the time) to be rendered in 3D cell-shaded CG. This style isn’t for everyone–if you have seen Ajin or Sidonia no Kishi then I would highly recommend checking this OVA series out.  It’s around 7 episodes total about kids discovering the Earth wasn’t destroyed after all, their journey to fight against the very society bound by lies, and their journey to meet a girl in the photo that starts this sci-fi story!  This is an over glorified view of teens off on an adventure.  FREEDOM is a solid representation of what the shounen genre is–teens being idiotic.  Typically we see characters doing stupid things for the sake of dramatic effect–I don’t see that with this OVA series because we never really get that feeling here.  Takeru and his friend Biz act amazed at witnessing a world they believed was erased from existence this show time and time again plays with that very well–especially when these two interact with other world human characters!  I also like how subdued the romance is in this with the final episode however I do have my gripes that this couldn’t be longer with a couple more episodes.  Kazuma’s fight with Takeru is rushed and the main leader of Eden is barely touched on.  Considering these points it is good to see a show so entertaining that builds its characters up nicely on a straightforward path.


#8

Kigeki [Comedy]

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Animation Production: 

  • Production I.G. ( PSYCHO-PASSGhost in the ShellBlood+Blood-CBlood the Last VampireReal DriveReideenJoker GameSarusuberi: Miss HokusaiGiovanni’s IslandHaikyuu!!Guilty CrownLoups=GarousHigashi no EdenxxxHolic series and OVAs, FLCLThe Heroic Legend of Arslan 1991 film, Mobile Police Patlabor 1988 OVA and 1989 Film 1, Kill Bill Vol. 1 Animation Sequence, Otogi ZoshiWindy TalesGhost HoundTokyo Marble Chocolate OVA)
  • Studio 4C ( Beyond OAV, Amazing Nuts! OAV, Baby Blue [from Genius Party Collection], Berserk: The Golden Age Arc Films, Deathtic 4, Detective Story [from the Animatrix Collection], Eikyuu KazokuHigan OAVKid’s Story OAVMahou ShoujotaiMoondriveShanghai DragonSprigganTekkonkinkreetThundercats 2011Transformers: Animated U.S. VersionUrarochi DiamondTojin Kit [from the Genius Party Collection])

Director: Kazuto Nakazawa ( Director on Blood+‘s Second Opening Sequence / Character Designer on DAYS / Key Animator on Death Parade‘s Opening Sequence / Character Designer on El Hazard / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on Hells film / Key Animator on Ergo Proxy‘s Opening Sequence / Character Designer, Chief Animation Director on Sarai-ya Goyo (House of Five Leaves) / Storyboard, Animation Director and Key Animator on Sakamichi no Apollon’s (Kids on the Slope) Opening Sequence / Director and Script on Parasite Dolls OAV / Character Designer, Chief Animation Director on Samurai Champloo / Character Designer, Chief Animation Director on Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Tokyo) / Director, Chief Animation Director, Key Animator on Vassalord OVA)

Sceenplay: Kazuto Nakazawa

Original Work: Rika Hataketa

Character Designer: Kazuto Nakazawa

Music: Franz Peter Schubert’s “Ave Maria”

Anyone that reads my blog and that read my Blog Challenge post would know why this is in my Top 10 Best OVAs.  Kigeki is one short is a series of five Studio 4C produced animations as a direct-to-DVD film entitled Deep Imagination. Amazing voice acting, incredible visuals including that beautifully fluid fight sequence and features Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria. It’s been noted that this OVA was inspired from Schubert’s piece Erikonig. Not many series take place in Ireland. Actually I can’t think of any right now.  It’s great to see Japanese creators shifting away from their homeland to write stories in other countries. Michiko e Hatchin took place in Brazil. Bacanno! was set in the U.S. during the 1930’s. There are also a few series that utilize a European setting–GosickIkoku Meiro no CroiseeLe Chevalier D’EonNoir and most notably Rose of Versailles.  Nice breakaway from the norm.

 Taking place during the Irish War of Independence, Kigeki situates its story when a five-year old girl goes on a journey to recruit the infamous Black Swordsman.  The gothic presentation and eerie background designs capture this feeling that the anime is gradually coming alive as you watch it!  Every scene flows naturally and by the end makes you wanting more!  I wish that Studio 4C could have turned this story into a series because this was beautifully dark! A story set in fairy-tale fashion combined with a grim and supernatural presence.


#7

Hellsing Ultimate

[10 episodes + Hellsing: The Dawn 3 Episode Arc OVAs]

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Animation Production: Studio MADHOUSE ( BECK: Mongolian Chop SquadBoogiepop PhantomAoi BungakuBarefoot GenBlack LagoonBio HunterCasshern SINSCardcaptor SakuraChobitsChihayafuruGungraveThe Girl Who Leapt Through TimeHajime no IppoHellsing Ultimate, Highschool of the DeadHunter x Hunter 2011KaibaKurozukaDenno CoilLast Order: Final Fantasy VIIDeath NoteDeath ParadeNeo TokyoNinja ScrollParadise KissParanoia AgentKiseijuuRecord of Lodoss WarPaprikaPrince of Stride: AlternativeMonster, Moryo no HakoSummer WarsThe Tatami GalaxyTokyo GodfathersTrigunWicked CityDemon City ShinjukuXWolf Children)

Directors: 

  • Tomokazu Tokoro [Episodes 1 – 4] ( Key Animator on AD Police episode 3 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Accel World episodes 13 and 20 / Key Animator on Black Magic M-66 / Key Animator on Armitage III / Episode Director and Key Animator on Chihayafuru episode 4 / Storyboard and Art Design on Hikaru no Go episodes 9, 13 and 21 / Key Animator on Serial Experiments Lain‘s Opening Sequence / Animation Director on Tekkaman Blade episode 45 / Storyboard on Texhnolyze episode 9)
  • Hiroyuki Tanaka [Episodes 5-7, 9 and 10] ( Episode Director Cooperation on BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad episodes 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 / Director and Storyboard on Claymore / Producer at AVEX Entertainment / Episode Director on Kemonozume episode 4 / Assistant Director on Shisha no Teikoku: Empire of Corpses / CG Artist on Memories / Assistant Unit Director on Ninja Scroll film / Storyboard and Episode Director on Ninja Scroll episode 9 / Assistant Director on X the movie / Episode Director and Storyboard on Guilty Crown episodes 2 and 10)
  • Yasuhiro Matsumura [Episode 8] ( Series Director on The Adventures of Mini-Goddess / Episode Director and Key Animator on Aldnoah.Zero episodes 6 and 16 / Episode Director on Legend of the Galactic Heroes OAV / Episode Director on Master Keaton episode 29 / Storyboard on Noein episode 3 / Director on Papillon Rose / Director on Landlock OAV)

Sceenplay: 

  • Yousuke Kuroda ( Script on Battle Athletes Victory / Series Composition, Scenario and Ending Theme Song Lyrics on Best Student Council / Script on Drifters / Script on Excel Saga / Script on Honey and Clover / Series Composition and Script on Jormungand / Scenario on Love Hina episode 14 / Series Composition on Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia) / Series Composition on Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom / Series Composition on Trigun / Screenplay on Ano Natsu de Matteru)
  • Hideyuki Kurata ( Series Composition and Screenplay on Android Ana Maico 2010 / Screenplay on Galilei Donna / Script on GunXSword / Series Composition on Oreimo / Story and Original Creator on R.O.D. Read or Die / Series Composition on Samurai Flamenco / Series Composition on The World God Only Knows)

Original Work: Kouta Hirano ( Creator on the following manga works: Coyote – Hangyaku no Resistance, Drifters, Hi Tension, Ikaryaku, Susume!! Seigaku Denno Kenkyubu)

Character Designer: Ryoji Nakamori ( Key Animator and Lead Animation Designer on BLEACH / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on Drifters / Key Animator on Saber Marionette J episode 20 / In-Between Animator on New Dominion Tank Police / Key Animator on Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn))

Music: Hayato Matsuo ( Music Composer for the following works: Captain Kuppa, Haunted Junction, Drifters, Magic Knight Rayearth, Les Miserables- Shojo Cosette, Transformers: Armada, The World God Only Knows)

The original Hellsing is very different to the OVAs.  Everything from story to music down to its cast of wildly ambitious characters.  The question is which one to watch? Hellsing pales in comparison to the Ultimate series. OVAs have a huge advantage to TV broadcast series and that is they don’t have to follow much of a broadcasting schedule, editing for television and ensure a demographic is met per episode.  With OVAs they can take as much time as the committee allows which is a large reason why every episode in Hellsing Ultimate is beautifully animated. Not to mention why many of these were delayed for a year to 6 months at a time.  MADHOUSE repeatedly gives us an amazing looking series and Hellsing Ultimate is no different.  Alucard is a vampire that fights ghouls and demons.  His maniacal presence is highly entertaining to watch!   Working alongside the police-girl-turned-vampire, Seras Victoria.  She’s one of the few characters that has a slight human aura to her.  While Alucard is the trademark protagonist of Hellsing Ultimate it’s Seras that is the real lead. Her transformative process that we see throughout this series from human to vampire is compelling (and sometimes grueling to see) is the real heart of this show.  There isn’t a single character in this that’s boring.  Everyone has their odd quirks and are extremely colorful. Even its villains! A good balance that features a gruesome presentation and a dark setting.  It also contains a silliness to its gore that can be off-putting to some viewers at times. So if you can’t handle cannibalism or extreme violence do not watch this one.


#6

The Cockpit

[3 episodes in total]

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Animation Production: Studio MADHOUSE ( BECK: Mongolian Chop SquadBoogiepop PhantomAoi BungakuBarefoot GenBlack LagoonBio HunterCasshern SINSCardcaptor SakuraChobitsChihayafuruGungraveThe Girl Who Leapt Through TimeHajime no IppoHellsing Ultimate, Highschool of the DeadHunter x Hunter 2011KaibaKurozukaDenno CoilLast Order: Final Fantasy VIIDeath NoteDeath ParadeNeo TokyoNinja ScrollParadise KissParanoia AgentKiseijuuRecord of Lodoss WarPaprikaPrince of Stride: AlternativeMonster, Moryo no HakoSummer WarsThe Tatami GalaxyTokyo GodfathersTrigunWicked CityDemon City ShinjukuXWolf Children)

Directors: 

  • Yoshiaki Kawajiri [Episode 1] ( Key Animation on Barefoot Gen films 1 and 2 / Script, Key Animator and Supervisor on Biohunter / Key Animator on Black Jack Final episode 2 / Storyboard on Chihayafuru‘s First Ending Sequence / Director and Character Designer on Demon City Shinjuku / Animator on Gatchaman episode 10 / Key Animator on Dino Mech Gaiking‘s Opening Sequence / Director on Goku: Midnight Eye OAV’s 1 and 2 / Director, Storyboard, Character Designer and Key Animator on Lensman film / Script and Storyboard on Master Keaton episode 34 / Key Animator and Layout Design on Metropolis film / Director, Screenplay, Original Creator, Original Character Designer and Key Animator on Ninja Scroll film / Storyboard on One-Punch Man episodes 8, 9, 10 and 11 / Storyboard on Pet Shop of Horrors episode 3 / Director, Screenplay, Character Designer and Animation Director on Running Man film / Storyboard on Rokka no Yusha episode 12 / Director, Character Designer and Animation Director on Wicked City film / Director, Script and Storyboard on X TV Series and film)
  • Takashi Imanishi Episode 2] ( Director on Aoki Ryusei SPT Layzner‘s Opening Sequence / Director on Afro Ken OAV / Director on Armored Trooper Votoms: The Heretic Saint OAV / Director on Gundam Evolve OVA / Setting Production on Panzer World Galient / Director and Screeplay on Violinist of Hamelin film)
  • Ryousuke Takahashi [Episode 3] ( Episode Director on Animal 1 / Series Composition and Original Creator on Armored Trooper Votoms / Director and Original Creator on Gasaraki / Episode Director on Moomin / Chief Director on Ozma / Director on Phoenix / Production Assistant and Title Designer on Samurai 7)

Sceenplay: 

  • Yoshiaki Kawajiri [ Episode 1]
  • Takashi Waguri [ Episode 2]
  • Ryousuke Takahashi [ Episode 3]

Original Manga: Leiji Matsumoto ( Original Creator of the following works: Captain Harlock
, Galaxy Express 999, Ginga Tetsudo 999, Gun Frontier, Harlock Saga, Interstella 5555 / The Galaxy Railways, Maetel LEgend, Marine Snow no Densetsu, Ozma, Planet Robot Danguard Ace, Queen Emeraldas, Slipstream, Space Battleship Yamato, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Star Blazers)

Character Designers:

  • Yoshiaki Kawajiri [Episode 1]
  • Toshihiro Kawamoto [Episode 2] ( Key Animator on Blood: The Last Vampire / Key Animator on City Hunter: Bay City Wars / Character Designer, Chief Animation Director on Cowboy Bebop / In-Between Animator on Dirty Pair / Assistant Chief Animator on Escaflowne: The Movie / Key Animator on FullMetal Alchemist: BROTHERHOOD‘s First Opening Sequence / Character Designer on Ghost Slayers Ayashi)
  • Yoshinobu Saito [Episode 3]

Music: 

  • Masahiro Kawasaki [Episode 1] ( Music Composer for the following works: Ashita Genki ni Nare! ~Hanbun no Satsumaimo~ film, Gegege no Kitaro, Himitsu no Akko-chan Season 3, Mischievous Twins, Neighborhood Story, Slipstream OAV, Street Fighter II V, Tenjohen – Utsunomiko film)
  • Akira Inoue [Episode 2] ( Music Composer for the following works: Harlock Saga‘s Ending Song, Lensman film, Lily C.A.T. OAV, Sonic Boom Squadron, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: The Movie)
  • Kaoru Wada [Episode 3] ( Music Composer for the following works: D.Gray-man, D.Gray-man Hallow, Fencer of Minerva OAV, 3×3 Eyes OAV, Ace Attorney, Gilgamesh, Ghost Stories, Hakaba Kitaro, Inuyasha, Ninja Scroll film, Princess Tutu, Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, Samurai 7, Silent Mobius, Strange Dawn, Tekkaman Blade, To Heart)

Leiji Matsumoto is one of the most well-known creators in Japan.  HIs popularity stems from the success of Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock.  Most of his stories are told in the vast reaches of space–suitably named “space opera” anime.  Characters that hold a sense of justice and are always fighting someone or something.  What makes Cockpit truly special is that it doesn’t have anything to do with pirates, space or aliens.  A 3 episode OVA series that have entirely original stories focused on World War II. This wouldn’t be a Matsumoto work without a feeling of drama and his style is very opera-esque.  All three of these episodes were done by entirely different directors.  The first one by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, you might know his work from Birdy the Mighty and the original Ninja Scroll film.  Focusing on a German pilot, Erhart von Leinders and his mission to use the atomic bomb.  Kawajiri follows the Matsumoto trend and focuses much of this episode’s time on emotional conflict–should a weapon of mass destruction like this be used?

The second one is from Gundam animator Takashi Imaishi.  This was the heartbreaking story of the three.  It’s about kamikaze pilots and their sense of duty and pride for their country.  By the end of this episode, alludes to the idea that this was a senseless act.  The visuals matched perfectly to the music.  There is one point where a pilot is screaming and then the next shot his plane is completely engulfed in flames without ever dramatizing it like the previous episode does in Matsumoto fashion.

Then there is my least favorite out of the three. This is because this story focuses on being funny rather than serious like the previous OVAs had been.  A bond between a war veteran and a rookie in the first five minutes sounds promising but doesn’t engage you as the first two do!

The Cockpit is a part of this list because it steers away from a glorified Japan.  Depicting the brutality of World War II and how the Japanese fought during it.


#5

Eikyuu Kazoku

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Animation Production: Studio 4°C ( Beyond OAV, Amazing Nuts! OAV, Baby Blue [from Genius Party Collection], Berserk: The Golden Age Arc Films, Deathtic 4, Detective Story [from the Animatrix Collection], Eikyuu Kazoku, Higan OAVKid’s Story OAV, Mahou ShoujotaiMoondriveShanghai DragonSprigganTekkonkinkreetThundercats 2011Transformers: Animated U.S. VersionUrarochi DiamondTojin Kit [from the Genius Party Collection])

Director: Koji Morimoto ( Assistant Chief Animator on Akira film / Director and Character Designer on Ai Monogatari OAV “Hero” / Key Animator on City Hunter‘s Opening Sequence / Director on Connected OVA / Director, Storyboard, Character Designer and Animation Director on Genius Party Collection‘s “Dimension Bomb” / Director on Four Day Weekend OAV / Lead Animator on Concert Scene from Macross Plus Movie Edition / Animator on Short Peace‘s Opening Segment / Storyboard on Tekkonkinkreet film / Key Animator on Genius Party‘s “Tojin Kit“)

Sceenplay: 

  • Dai Sato ( Script on Samurai Champloo episodes 5, 8, 9, 18 and 22 / Script on Space Dandy episodes 2, 6, 13 and 25 / Sript on Cowboy Bebop episodes 9, 14 and 23 / Script on Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East) episodes 3 and 8 / Screenplay on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Individual Eleven OAV and The Laughing Man OAV / Sript on Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna / Script on Toward the Terra episodes 12, 16 and 17)
  • Koji Morimoto

Original Concept: Koji Morimoto

Character Designers: 

  • Koji Morimoto

Music: Chito Kawachi ( Music Composer for the following works: Ranpou, Wonderful Adventures of Nils)


The mid 90’s certainly were a time for Studio 4C.  Working on animation sequences from Akira to Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game film and the latest entry into the Project Itoh film trilogy, Harmony. You can read my review on that film here. The studio has established themselves outside the realm of normal Japanese Animation Studios by enriching their works with odd stories and wild animation techniques.  They’re a different breed of Japanese anime in that many of their works stray from traditional animation.  Eikyuu Kazoku reminds me of how they handled Tekkonkinkreet visual style Overall, Eikyuu Kazoku is as strange as they come.  If you like messy art then you will certainly end up enjoying Kazoku.  Heck, even fans of Ping Pong The Animation or Kaiba–both of which are Masaaki Yuasa-directed series will pull you into this bizarre OVA.

Eikyuu Kazoku‘s literal English translation is Eternal Family.   And an odd family they are.  In fact they aren’t even a biological family at all! The story is that they’ve been brainwashed to believe they are.  So much creativity spread across the board with this!  A baby running around with scissors, a pyromaniac daughter, another son that loves guns and one of the weirdest members of the family is the other daughter that has a puppet speak for her.  It’s as if I was watching a full series focused on Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfather‘s homeless cast told in vignettes.  The pacing in this is quick and highly energetic.  A fantastic OVA!


#4

FLCL

[6 episodes in total]

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Animation Production: 

  • GAINAX (Abenobashi: Magical Shopping Arcade, Shikabane Hime, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Medaka Box, Magica Wars, Wish Upon the Pleiades, Melody of Oblivion, Mahoromatic, His and Her Circumstances, He is My Master, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, Dantalian no Shoka)
  • Production I.G. (PSYCHO-PASSGhost in the ShellBlood+Blood-CBlood the Last VampireReal DriveReideenJoker GameSarusuberi: Miss HokusaiGiovanni’s IslandHaikyuu!!Guilty CrownLoups=GarousHigashi no EdenxxxHolic series and OVAs, FLCLThe Heroic Legend of Arslan 1991 film, Mobile Police Patlabor 1988 OVA and 1989 Film 1, Kill Bill Vol. 1 Animation Sequence, Otogi ZoshiWindy TalesGhost HoundTokyo Marble Chocolate OVA)

Series Director:  Kazuya Tsurumaki (Episode Director on Berserk episode 1 / Storyboard and Unit Director on Captain Earth‘s First Opening Sequence / Storyboard on Shikabane Hime‘s Opening Sequence / Key Animator on Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture / Director and Storyboard on Gunbuster OAV / Storyboard on The Idolmaster episode 4 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Kill la Kill‘s Episode 24 “Epilogue” / Key Animator on Kimagure Orange Road OAV / In-Between Animator on Maison Ikkoku episodes 3 and 9 / Episode Director on Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 1, 2, 8, 16, 25 and 26 / Unit Director on Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Opening Sequence / Key Animator on Noir episode 26 / Storbyoard on STAR DRIVER‘s Second Opening Sequence / Key Animator on Shojo Kakumei Utena episode 37)

Script: Yoji Enokido ( Series Composition on Bungo Stray Dogs / Series Composition and Screenplay on Captain Earth / Script on Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 2, 7, 8 and 11 / Series Composition and Script on Nodame Cantabile: Paris-hen / Series Composition and Script on Ouran High School Host Club / Script on Redline film / Screenplay on RahXephon / Series Composition and Script on Shojo Kakumei Utena / Series Composition and Script on STAR DRIVER)

Original Concept: Kazuya Tsurumaki

Original Character Designer: Yoshiyuki Sadamoto ( Character Designer on Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) live-action films / Character Designer on Girl Who Leapt Through Time film / Character Designer on .hack full series / Character Designer and Animation Director on Nadia Secret of the Blue Water / Character Designer on Neon Genesis Evangelion films and TV series / Character Designer on Robot Carnival OAV’s “A Tale of Two Robots: Chapter Meiji” / Story and Art on Route 20 manga / Character Designer on Summer Wars manga and film / Character Designer on Wolf Children manga and film)

Music: The Pillows

Now here is an OVA series that is strange. How do I even put a label on this OVA series?  Is it a comedy or drama?  Action? Mystery? Supernatural?  How about all of the above. FLCL is a first of its kind when it comes to delivering an exceeding amount of comedic gags.  Actually if it wasn’t for Excel Saga‘s relentless attempts at comedy I probably wouldn’t have liked FLCL as much as I did.  Limitless in its routine structure–both visually and story-wise. The Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt’s and Space Patrol Luluco’s of the early 2000’s.  Speaking of visuals the style utilizes a solid color palette ranging from super brights to dark sublime tonal colors.  Very deceiving for the creators to do this because it leads you to believe that this will be a slice-of-life show about kids and teens.  FLCL is an achievement in animation because it uses its background designs to enrich the character’s actions and emotional states perfectly.  Confusing and conflicted characters that balance one another (especially with Naoto and Haruko) with a payoff that screams spastic delivery.  Naoto suffers from sexual frustration resulting in nosebleeds reminding us that we’re watching a kid discovering there is more to the outside world than just his town.  His bat exemplifies his behavior and the absurd challenges he faces throughout–monsters, aliens, and a woman filled with his adult desires.  This series warrants multiple viewings because of how closely connected each episode layers on literal and metaphorical meanings resulting in a highly energizing and entertaining animated experience!


#3

Patlabor: Early Days

[7 episodes in total]

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Animation Production: Studio DEEN ( Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Sakamoto desu ga?, Urusei Yatsura, Angel’s Egg, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, You’re Under Arrest, Zenki, Ehrgeiz, Eden’s Bowy, Gravitation, Fruits Basket, Read or Die R.O.D., Samurai Deeper Kyo, Rave Master, Law of Ueki, Simoun, Tactics, 07 Ghost, Vampire Knight, Giant Killing, Nurarihyon no Mago, Starry Sky, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?, Sankarea, Pupa, Sakura Trick, Hybrid Child OVA, Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o!, Super Lovers, Fate/Stay Night (2006), Zipang, Domain of Murder OVA)

Director: Mamoru Oshii ( Original Creator on Blood: The Last Vampire nove, film and manga / Director and Screenplay on Dallos OAV / Director and Storyboard on Ghost in the Shell film and TV series / Director on Sky Crawlers film / Director on Urusei Yatsura / Supervision on Windy Tales / Director on The Wonderful Adventures of Nils both film and TV series)

Script: Kazunori Ito ( Screenplay on Dirty Pair / Screenplay on Maison Ikkoku / Screenplay on Ghost in the Shell film / Screenplay on Avalon / Screenplay and Script on .hack series / Screenplay on Absolute Boy)

Original Concept: Headgear [The group consists of director Mamoru Oshii, writer Kazunori Ito, mecha designer Yutaka Izubuchi, character designer Akemi Takada and manga artist Masami Yuki]

Character Designer: Akemi Takada ( Character Designer on CoCO & NiCO / Character Designer on Fancy Lala / Character Designer on Magical Angel Creamy Mami / Character Designer on Maison Ikkoku / Character Designer and Animation Director on Urusei Yatsura / Created the Capital Police Emblem Design from Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade)

Music: Kenji Kawai (Music Composer for the following works: Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider, Maison Ikkoku, Devilman, Project A-ko, Burn Up!, Ranma 1/2, Blue Seed, Ghost in the Shell film, You’re Under Arrest, Sky Crawlers film, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East), Barakamon, Joker Game, Mob Psycho 100, World Trigger, 009:Re:Cyborg film)

The best part about seeing Patlabor is that we get to see some many different sides of Mamoru Oshii’s directing.  A few of these OVA episodes are quite funny.  A little less action [aside from the odd final seventh episode; directed by Naoyuki Yoshinaga] than what you might expect from a mecha series.  Essentially this is a comedy/drama series about pilots’ lives during missions.  Episode one, transitions smoothly from comedy to seriousness in ways that many anime of today can’t pull off in 1-cour!  The OVAs are brilliant because it gives a new viewer a taste of its like-able cast, mecha setting and compelling collection of side-stories that round out the cast wonderfully.  If anything I would recommend watching these first before diving into the 50-episode series.  The main series may be a bit of a daunting task to jump into but with these OVAs it helps you enjoy the regular story a lot more and as to why Patlabor: Early Days makes this list!

[7 episodes in total]

#2

Macross Plus

[4 episodes then re-released in Movie Edition format]

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Animation Production: Triangle Staff (Aoi & Mutsuki: A Pair of Queens, Boogiepop Phantom, Colorful film, Go Nagai World OAV, Magic User’s Club!, NieA_7, Serial Experiments Lain, Space Pirate Mito, St. Luminous Mission High School, Venus Wars film)

Chief Director: Shoji Kawamori ( Director, Series Composition, Screenplay and Original Creator on Aquarion / Mechanical Design on Moretsu Pirates / Original Creator on Basquash! / Conceptual Design on the Nirvash from Eureka Seven / Original Creator of the entirety of Macross / Original Creator and Series Composition on Nobunaga the Fool, Storyboard on Noein episode 20 / Original Creator and Director on Escaflowne)

Director: Shinichiro Watanabe (Director and Creator on Cowboy Bebop / Director on Samurai Champloo / Music Producer on Michiko e Hatchin / Music Director on Mind Game film / Storyboard on Mobile Suit Gundam Wing episode 34 / Director on Cancelled Project T.A.T.u. Paragate / Storyboard on Ergo Proxy episode 19 / Director on Death Parade‘s Ending Sequence / Storyboard on Birdy the Mighty: Decode episode 12 / Director on Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) / Chief Animation Director on Space Dandy / Director and Storyboard on Zankyou no Terror [Terror in Tokyo], Storyboard and Unit Director on STAR DRIVER‘s First Opening Sequence / Storyboard and Unit Director on Space Dandy‘s Opening Sequence)

Screenplay: Keiko Nobumoto ( Series Composition and Script on Cowboy Bebop / Script on Space Dandy episodes 8, 15, 19 and 22 / Screenplay on Tokyo Godfathers film / Original Creator and Script on Wolf’s Rain)

Original Concept: Shoji Kawamori

Character Designer: Masayuki ( Character Designer and Animation Director on BAOH OAV / Character Designer on Duel Masters / Director on Neon Genesis Evangelion films / Storyboard on Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episode 15 / Storyboard on Kill la Kill episode 14 / Key Animator on Now and Then, Here and There episode 1 / Storyboard on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt episode 18 / Key Animator on Project A-Ko film / Director and Key Animator on Re: Cutie Honey OAV Episode 3 / Animation Director on Vampiyan Kids episode 6)

Music: Yoko Kanno (Music Composer for the following works: Cowboy Bebop, Aquarion, Darker Than Black, Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope], entire Macross franchise, Space Dandy, Zankyou no Terror, Wolf’s Rain)

Incredibly focused.  Really solid voice acting.  Spectacular visuals.  An OVA series turned feature length film with amazing characterization. A tour de force.  The decision to not develop the shallow side-cast heightens many strengths Macross Plus carries throughout its 4 episodes.  Engaging, relatable, and down-to-earth main characters. A grandiose character study between a pilot’s duty and relationships in life.  It is not big surprise why this is so damn good.  The original creator of Macross Shoji Kawamori and Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe collaborated on this!  This was the first time Watanabe got a chance to co-direct an animated project.  It was also the began Yoko Kanno’s working relationship with Watanabe! The soundtrack is superb and contains the most amazing pieces of music you will ever hear to an animated series/feature film!  Establishing strong emotional music that lifts every scene together to great heights.  The animation isn’t the best of its time but it is the smoothest you’ll see. Overall, the payoff is an incredibly constructed ending!  It couldn’t have been any better it was perfect!  This is one of the most dramatic endings I have ever seen!


#1

Vampire Hunter D

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Animation Production:

  • Ashi Productions ( 8 Man After, Ai City film, Beast Wars II Cho Seimeitai Transformers, Blue Seed, Doctor Chichibuyama, In-Between Animation on Dog of Flanders film)
  • Studio Live (Amon-Apocalupse of Devilman OAV, Character Designs and In-Between Animation on Future GPX Cyber Formula TV Series and OAV’s “11” and “Zero” / 2nd Key Animation on Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin Episode 11 / In-Between Animation work on over hundreds of series including Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED), Endride, Eureka Seven, Fairy Tail, Aku no Hana, Heat Guy J, Hunter x Hunter Original and 2011 Series, The IdolMasterKurenaiKing of Thorn film, Miss Hokusai film, Mobile Suit Gundam 00NarutoSenko no Night RaidReal Drive, Rio – Rainbow Gate!Rurouni KenshinSailor MoonSamurai ChamplooUN-GOShigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)Cowboy Bebop)

Director: Toyoo Ashida (Character Designer and Animation Director on Alps no Shojo Heidi / Animation Director on Candy Candy / Character Designer on Fairy Princess Minky Momo / Director and Original Character Designer on Gdleen / Animation Director on Galaxy Express 999 / Producer for Love Love? / Character Designer and Animation Director on Star Blazers)

Screenplay: Yasushi Hirano (Series Composition and Screenplay on 6 Angels film / Series Composition on City Hunter / Script on Dragon Ball / Script on Lupin III: Part III / Script on Ninja Scroll episodes 7, 10, 12 and 13 / Series Composition on Showa Monogatari / Screenplay on Ultraman)

Original Concept: Based on the novels written by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano.

Character Designer: Yoshitaka Amano (Lead Character Designer on the Final Fantasy video-game series / Original Creator and Original Character Designer on Amon Saga OAV / Original Character Designer on Ayakashi – Samurai Horror Tales “Yotsuya Kaidan” arc / Original Character Designer on Final Fantasy: Unlimited / Character Designer on Lily C.A.T. OAV / Character Designer on Casshan / Original Character Designer on Tekkaman, The Space Knight)

Music: Tetsuya Komuro (Music Composer for the following works: Carol OAV, City Hunter‘s Theme Songs, Cyborg 009, Punch-Line, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie / Theme Song Composition on Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S in Episode 24)

One of the big reasons why Vampire Hunter D is number one is because it reminds me of my childhood.  On Saturday mornings the Sci-Fi Channel aired a programming block entitled “Saturday Anime”.  I grew up with seeing OVA series like 8-ManDominion Tank Police, Iria: Zeiram the Animation and Urusei Yatsura. To full length TV series Record of Lodoss War, Galaxy Express 999and Casshan Robot Hunter.  The channel also aired Japanese animated films that were heavily edited for TV featuring an English dub language track–AkiraDemon City Shinjuku and Vampire Hunter D were just a few that I can remember. The first time I watched Vampire Hunter D was around the early to mid 90’s in Japanese with fansubs.  It is great that it received a stateside release through Sci-Fi Channel’s programming block, which I saw only a few months later, but the English dub ruined much of the charm that made the Japanese cast so compelling to listen to.  It’s initial release was back in 1985 and for that time turned out to be a very beautiful OVA. You either love it or hate it.  I believe that Vampire Hunter D is a misunderstood classic.  About a girl becoming the interest of an Italian mafia-looking Vampire. A simplistic damsel-in-distress story.  If it had been made today it would probably be over-looked but over time this has become an instant classic for me.  The art including its character designs were done by Final Fantasy illustrator Yoshitaka Amano–growing up playing those video-games gave me more interest in seeing this OVA.  It also uses prolific 90’s animation director Hiromi Matsushita.  Everything about this OVA oozes with cool and utilizes an extremely dark tone of red, blue, black and green color palette. I highly recommend checking this one out if you are a fan of vampire series.


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