OVAs originated during the early 1980s. As the VCR became a widespread fixture in Japanese homes, the Japanese anime industry grew to behemoth proportions. Demand for anime became massive, so much so that consumers would willingly go directly to video stores to buy new animation outright. While people in the United States use the phrase "direct-to-video" as a pejorative for works that could not make it onto television or movie screens, in Japan the demand was so great that direct-to-video became a necessity. Many popular and influential series such as Bubblegum Crisis (1987–1991) and Tenchi Muyo! (1992–2005) were released directly to video as OVAs.
A great example of using animation for explanation is TED-Ed. If you are not signed up to their YouTube channel yet, it’s just about time. It has over 3 million subscribers and is one of the most popular educational channels on YouTube. Most videos created by the team use animation. It simplifies otherwise difficult topics like how the food you eat affects your brain or the physics of the “hardest move” in ballet.
Some OVAs based on television series (and especially those based on manga) may provide closure to the plot – closure not present in the original series. The Rurouni Kenshin OVAs, to name one series, exemplified numerous aspects of OVAs; they were slightly based on chapters of the author Nobuhiro Watsuki's manga that had not been adapted into the anime television series, had higher-quality animation, were much more violent, and were executed in a far more dark and realistic style than the TV episodes or the manga.
Many one-episode OVAs exist as well. Typically, such an OVA provides a side-story to a popular TV series (Detective Conan OVAs). At an early stage in the history of the OVA (1980s) many one-episode OVAs appeared. Hundreds of manga that were popular but not enough to gain TV series were granted one-shot (or otherwise extremely short) OVA episodes. When these one-shot OVAs prove popular enough, a network can use the OVA as a pilot to an anime series.
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