In February 2018, the Olympic Channel released The Nagano Tapes: Rewound, Replayed & Reviewed, a documentary directed by Ondřej Hudeček that delves into the Czech Republic ice hockey team's gold medal win at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. While The Nagano Tapes is three years old, the film recently saw a resurgence online after anime fans discovered that the documentary's opening title sequence is set to "A Cruel Angel's Thesis," the opening theme of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Hudeček himself has now explained the homage.
The Nagano Tapes gained notoriety in recent days thanks to a number of posts on social media, most notably one by user @VoltySquirrel on Twitter. "I cannot stress enough just how much you need to stop whatever it is you are doing and watch the opening titles of this documentary," they wrote. "I promise you're not ready for what's coming." Notably, the documentary's opening not only features "A Cruel Angel's Thesis" but is, in fact, edited in the exact same way as Evangelion's own title sequence.
Hudeček commented on the film's resurgence, tweeting, "It took me three years, but I finally made anime Twitter go nuts." The director went on to explain to Polygon exactly why he decided to pay tribute to Evangelion in The Nagano Tapes, stating that there were both narrative and personal reasons for this creative choice, and that a "quick montage with a cheeky music seemed like a fun way to do it."
Hudeček elaborated, "When I was looking for the right song that would do the trick, I remembered I was obsessed with Neon Genesis Evangelion in the late '90s when the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, took place, and it just clicked: the Japanese music, the use of title cards, the personal nostalgia, the subversive mix of hockey and anime..." He also revealed that the documentary's producers were initially "quite surprised" by his choice of song. However, he was met with little pushback, as they "quickly fell in love with the idea and supported it all the way."
Neon Genesis Evangelion originally ran for 26 episodes from October of 1995 to March of 1996. The anime series was followed up by the 1997 films Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. The Rebuild of Evangelion film tetralogy launched in Japan in 2007 as a re-telling of the anime, with its fourth and final installment, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, releasing in March of this year.
Directed and co-written by Ondřej Hudeček, The Nagano Tapes: Rewound, Replayed & Reviewed is narrated by Giancarlo Esposito. The film can be streamed on Olympics.com.