To be a director requires a lot of things, but also, sometimes it just means following your heart. Especially when your heart says “You know what this documentary needs? Neon Genesis Evangelion’s A Cruel Angel’s Thesis.”
Three years ago, director Ondřej Hudeček released The Nagano Tapes, a documentary covering the 1998 Winter Olympics, and the story of how the Czech Republic — having been formed just five years prior after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia — defeated Russia to take its first gold at a Winter Olympics, in the first hockey competition at the contest to allow NHL athletes to participate on teams hailing from their home countries. The documentary mostly went under the radar for much of the internet, which prefers pictures of cats and shitposts to sports documentaries about the contrasts between political and social upheaval in Eastern Europe of the late ‘90s and winter sports. Such a topic, admittedly, might make you wonder why Gizmodo is covering it in the first place. It turns out it’s because Hudeček is a bit of a Hideaki Anno fan.
The Nagano Tapes was recently uploaded to the official Olympics website, making it accessible for free — and has now gone viral after people on social media noticed that Hudeček opens his documentary with a pastiche of one of the most iconic anime openings of all time: Gainax’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. The director took to Twitter himself to celebrate that, finally, people had found his homage:
It took me 3 years, but I finally made Anime Twitter go nuts. pic.twitter.com/DVd7LP5e4y
— Ondřej Hudeček (@ondrejhudecek) May 27, 2021
Set to Yoko Takahashi’s opening song for the 1995 mecha/existential crisis simulator anime, The Nagano Tapes intro (check it out here, it starts roughly at 1:10) pays homage to Evangelion’s opening, quickly cutting footage of political unrest in the former Czechoslovakia and USSR with footage from hockey matches and preparation for the 1998 games. The stark, black and white interstitial cards that break up Evangelion’s opening remain, except instead of saying Eva terms like “NERV,” “Absolute Terror Field,” and “Tokyo-3,” they now read “Soviet Invasion”, “Capitalism,” and, of course, “Hockey.” Fun fact? Tokyo-2, the capital of Japan in Evangelion’s post-apocalyptic lore, is actually based in what is actually Matsumoto City, in Nagano prefecture, roughly 48 km from where the ‘98 Winter Games took place.
Why Hudeček decided to just go full on anime-nerd and set his documentary opening to A Cruel Angel’s Thesis is unknown, but honestly maybe the only reason we need is that it’s a certified banger, whether it’s soundtracking civil unrest and hockey or giant robots and traumatised pilots.