If you haven’t been living under a rock this past month, then you might have seen or heard the buzz online surrounding this new Filipino, anime-inspired supernatural series on Netflix. And if you live in the Philippines, chances are you’ve also seen the insane and bone-chilling marketing leading up to the show’s premiere. Indeed, prepare your tabi-tabi po’s because Trese is finally here.
Based on the Filipino comic series written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo, Trese follows the titular character Alexandra Trese, who is not your ordinary detective: her line of work involves solving crimes of supernatural origin and dealing with aswangs or ghouls, spirits, and a host of mythical creatures. Set against the bustling capital of Manila, Alexandra, along with a few occult and human allies, aid law enforcement in keeping the city safe while maintaining the balance between the natural and supernatural worlds.
There are minor spoilers for the show after this point. You can watch it first then come back otherwise, better say tabi-tabi po.
Ahead of its official release, the first five minutes or the opening scene of series was made available to the public as a taste of what (horrors) to expect in this six-episode run. And even if you aren’t familiar with the local mythology or haven’t read the original comics (like me), this opening sequence is an excellent introduction to the world of Trese and Filipino folklore and embodies one of the show’s many strengths: world-building.
While the episodes can be read as your typical crime procedural, each of the six episodes has a distinct approach in introducing the mythology and, especially, the diverse cast of mythical beings. You have murder mysteries, an underground crime ring investigation, and even a subtle nod to Fast and Furious.
Moreover, instead of drawing a harsh line between these two worlds, the ghouls and the spirits are embedded into human society and overall it adds to the richness and originality of the series. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself Googling tikbalang mid-watch. Also, things get deliciously gruesome—one of the show’s many appeals—if that wasn’t already clear from the opening scene. But if we’re talking enduring appeal, then that honor goes to our main girl, Alexandra Trese.
From the first episode alone, Alexandra made it clear that she was an iconic force to be reckoned with, exhibiting a natural awareness and command of the supernatural while still looking snatched in an all-black ensemble. Through the course of the show we mostly see Alexandra’s tough exterior and it’s not until the latter act the shell cracks ever so slightly to reveal this vulnerable girl inside. It balanced out her character and made her more relatable rather than unattainable.
The supporting characters were also quite memorable. Crispin and Basilio, Alexandra’s mystical bodyguards, were highlights of the show, providing fun comic relief as well as support to our main girl, especially in that final boss fight. Though I wish we got more backstory on them, but more on that later. Captain Guerrero, who assists Alexandra in her sleuthing and vice versa, was another interestingly written character, but thankfully he is anything but your typical cop.
On a slightly more critical note, while there are definitely some excellently drawn pictures of the urban, the overall animation lags or leaves some to be desired. It is especially evident in the action sequences and some exposition scenes where either the movement or the facial expressions appear stiff. The last episode was also anticlimactic in the sense that it spent a good chunk recapping the entire plot instead of piecing it together for the sake of story and character development.
Lastly, we can’t talk about world-building and characters without acknowledging the multilayered-ness of the show in terms of themes. The average might not catch on, but if you’re “aware” enough then you would know how the show did a good and subtle job of tackling relevant social and political themes. The use of world-building and mythology as indirect mirrors of society gives Trese an edge above other anime series and follows the footsteps of the select few that have successfully integrated them into their respective world (see: Attack on Titan and Psycho Pass).
So, should you watch this show in Filipino, English, or Japanese language? Nah, I’m just kidding. But honestly, the voice acting across all formats are average at best and you should watch it however you want to. Do support our own though *wink*
Overall, Trese makes a confident and original entrance into the realms of anime. Six episodes may not be enough to completely tell the story and it shows. One thing’s for sure though is that it still has a lot to offer to its audiences. So, stay— stay for the rich, and sometimes horrific but definitely enthralling world of Philippine folklore. And don’t forget to say tabi-tabi po.
Trese is now streaming on Netflix.