For the first time, Netflix produced an anime adaptation of Filipino comic series Trese, written by Budgette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. To say the entire nation was excited was an understatement. Reports say it took 13 years before the project came into fruition and judging by its quality, it was well worth the wait.
Synopsis: Alexandra Trese (Liza Soberano/Shay Mitchell) is a descendant of a Babaylan (prophet) and a Lakan (warrior/guardian). Her job is to maintain the balance between the human and the underworld based on an accord forged by her father. But a tempest is brewing. The balance becomes more precarious with each mystical anomaly and Alexandra must put a stop to it before chaos reigns.
Overall, I thought Trese was a pretty solid anime, Filipino origins or no. It had a rich background of Pinoy folklore to draw from and what remained was tying it up together for a modern day take. A nuno informant who works for Chocnut, a ghost hacker, and a Pinoy version of Commissioner Gordon. It was very very Filipino.
For the most part, Trese had a Supernatural/ Mulan vibe going for it with the episodic adventures contributing to one major arc.
It was definitely written for a Filipino audience as it tackled problems and social issues affecting the Philippines. The frequent train breakdowns, the slum areas, the corrupt politicians. It used the story to spotlight the Filipino people’s plight as they continue to be preyed upon by monsters with no claws and sharp teeth in real life. While Trese is effectively a social commentary set in the fantastical world of aswangs and tikbalangs, it is also an opportunity to showcase Filipino culture and folklore to the rest of the world.
It was tough to flesh out a story this complex with only six episodes but it kind of worked out better in my opinion, because the story was able to steer clear of the tendency to overdramatize its approach, as is the inclination of most Pinoy dramas.
It was cool to revisit the classic folklore about the aswang, tikbalang, lamang lupa, duwende, and encantadas and the animation was pretty strong (kudos to BASE Entertainment). I also liked how the English dub was done by actors with Filipino heritage. Not to be outdone, the Pinoy cast did a bang up job for the Filipino dub.
I only had one problem with the casting. I originally started out watching with the original Filipino dub but I was bothered by the monotony of Liza Soberano’s delivery of her lines. She must have gotten the memo that Alexandra Trese should be a dark and broody bada*ss but overshot her interpretation.
I was really bothered by how slowly she enunciated the words, as if she was afraid to mess up the deeper, more uncommon Tagalog words. I felt like Shay Mitchell was even more confident than her in the delivery of the Tagalog lines. It was weird to listen to the Filipino dub of the lead character with an accent, especially since there was nothing in the story to indicate that Trese was a conyo. In casting Trese, production should have relied on skills rather than celebrity. Nothing against Liza, but she was just not right for the role.
Trese, as a character, really needs to level up her social skills. As the new Lakan, its understandable that she is stressed out by the number of cases falling on her lap but she can’t simply barge into the territories of the elders and threatening them at every turn.
And of course, it was also understandable why they would buck her when they feel disrespected. What is the real consequence of breaking the accord, even? And Bagyong Lektro actually had a point. Little Trese could have subdued Kulimlim without resorting to extreme measures, given that he was the heir to his father’s throne.
I liked a lot of the characters — Captain Guerrero, Nuno, the twins Basilio and Crispin, Hank and Maliksi. They really made the story come to life.
*spoiler*I wasn’t a big fan of the lengthy monologue by Datu Talagbusao in the end and thought it was a lazy but convenient way to explain everything in one go. In keeping his existence a secret for the final reveal, there wasn’t really a giant climax at the end of the line, just the usual family is forever type of shiz.
All in all, I would still recommend for Netflix to pick up the series for a second season. We have so much more mythical creatures to explore. Plus, there was too much backstory to unpack in just six half hour episodes. If Trese finds it in her heart to muster even a bit of enthusiasm for anything, Netflix should give her a chance to continue her journey.