On paper, Cestvs: The Roman Fighter sounds like a solid entry in any seasonal lineup—it’s a pure action anime about boxing gladiators in Ancient Rome, based on a never-before-adapted manga that’s been running more or less continuously since 1997. It has the director behind the Higurashi series, the studio behind Gintama, and even a professional boxer on hand to help choreograph fight scenes. But for some reason, this potentially great anime has turned out to be a hilarious train wreck reminiscent of Berserk 2016 and even Ex-Arm. Here are our first impressions of Cestvs: The Roman Fighter!
Okay, It’s Not as Bad as Ex-Arm, But…
There are two main issues with this anime, but we’ll start with the one that was also present in the manga: the historical inaccuracies. The quality of a historical anime isn’t entirely dependent on its accuracy—just look at Appare Ranman and Moriarty the Patriot—but it shouldn’t willfully misinform people. Instead of taking place in a clearly fictionalized version of history and establishing its own world from there (as the two previously mentioned series do), Cestvs has a narrator present its setting as if it’s a faithfully recreated documentary. So when we’re told that gladiators are killed if they lose even once, the commander’s son belongs to some Imperial Unarmed Combat Force where he learned modern MMA fighting techniques, and regular Roman shmucks have names like Miguel... it’s a little disconcerting. Still, we could overlook this were it not for the anime’s second main issue—the animation.
Cestvs can’t decide whether it wants to be a 2D anime or a 3D one, so it frequently shifts between the two at random intervals (and we do mean random, since dialogue scenes are just as likely to be 3D as fights). The 2D art looks more or less okay for the low budget they likely have to work with, but the 3D was licensed out to a studio called Logic & Magic that doesn’t seem to have ever worked on an anime before. It has that lazy motion capture problem where characters’ bodies move unnaturally smoothly and their faces look like dead-eyed, slack-jawed action figures. The main character is the best-looking model of the bunch, but even he looks several years older and a few inches taller than his 2D counterpart. From episode 2 onward, they even combine 2D and 3D characters in the same scene sometimes! It’s utterly baffling to watch.
The Cestvs: The Roman Fighter Drinking Game
All of that being said, we still recommend Cestvs as a “so bad it’s good” anime to watch with friends. And, as long as you’re old enough, feel free to spice up the evening with this little drinking game we came up with!
- Every time something blatantly historically inaccurate happens, take a sip. If the narrator chimes in to give his seal of approval, take another sip.
- Every time you hear a hilariously out-of-place name, take a sip.
- Every time the animation switches from 2D to 3D or vice versa between scenes, take a sip. For extra fun, have everyone guess which animation style the next scene will use (or primarily use, since some are mixed), and everyone who guessed wrong has to chug their drink.
- Every time 2D and 3D characters interact in the same scene, take a sip. If they’re in the same shot, keep drinking until the camera cuts away.
- Every time the 3D facial animation makes you feel physically ill, keep drinking until you feel even worse.
Cestvs may not be as technically incompetent as Ex-Arm or as blasphemous as Berserk 2016, but it’s still a certified Piece of Work™ that you should check out if you want a break from all of the actually good anime Spring 2021 has to offer. Let us know what you think in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!