Netflix's Trese: Season 1 review and reaction
This review might be all over the place as I'm just writing about my first impressions.

It's been quite awhile since I posted any movie or TV series review here, but this one was worth of attention. Netflix just dropped their latest animated series, Trese. This is the first Filipino-made series on the streaming platform.

Trese is based on the Filipino comic series of the same name, written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. I've been aware of this series before, been meaning to read it but I didn't get around to that.

This reaction is more on the series and I'm writing this without reading the comics. If I get a chance, I would also read the comics. I am also writing this without watching the behind-the-scenes Netflix special as it might affect my reaction here.

Season 1 has six episodes and the storyline alternates between the present day and flashbacks through Alexandra's youth. The series follows a 'monster of the week' format where for each episode, Alexandra solves a unique 'case', with alliances and battles with supernatural beings in Philippine folklore.

About our heroine, Alexandra Trese

Alexandra Trese is some kind of paranormal and supernatural investigator. Whenever the police (Captain Guerrero ), need help on a case they can't solve, Alexandra is the one to call.

Alexandra in is a young woman probably in her early twenties, with mestiza features (pale skin, almond eyes, full lips). She's wearing a trench coat amidst the heat and humidity of the story setting, Manila. She has two sidekicks, the twins Crispin and Basilio, who also wear suits despite the environment. Perhaps their supernatural heritage (to be revealed in the story later) can help them against the weather.

She can hold her own against fights, both physical and supernatural. She has a weapon, a kris sword called Sinag. She is also knowledgeable about rituals and tools for spells and other supernatural means of solving her cases.

Alexandra's parents are both dead, but she lives with Crispin, Basilio, and Hank, the bartender in The Diabolical bar. Most of Alexandra's backstory revolves around her father, who we see in flashbacks. From what I can glean from the story, Alexandra's father and family are protectors of the 'balance' between the human and supernatural worlds. They keep the supernatural beings in harmony, and try to stop any elements that try to harm the human world or the 'balance' between worlds.

In the story, Alexandra is a modern babaylan. In Philippine indigenous culture, a babaylan is a shaman specializing in healing, sorcery, and communicating with the spirit world. Throughout the different groups in the Philippines, they may have different names, but still perform the same functions for the community.

Philippine folklore in Trese

What I love about Trese is it it features Philippine culture and folklore.

Any Filipino will be quite familiar with the creatures in the story: the nuno sa punso, white ladies, tikbalang, aswang, tyanak, and many others. In the world of Trese, these creatures are hiding in plain sight in the city.

The way the creatures were animated and drawn were also great. There's been many reactions about finding the monsters attractive. Just look at Maliksi, the prince of Tikbalang:

Many have also been 'thirsting' for the kambal, Crispin and Basilio:

The story and what I would like to see

The first five episodes were pretty okay, but I didn't quite like the last episode. In episode six, one of the villains was revealing the 'secret' of Alexandra's father. I think that was one bad example of "telling instead of showing" because we get the villain just EXPLAINING to Alexandra. It was hard to watch.

The forced plot about the police was kind of cringey.

I would also like to know more about Alexandra and her weaknesses. She seems to solve every case perfectly well, but I really wanted to see - does she face struggles? Were there cases she didn't solve? What else is she like, outside her work? Well, we see her house and her training with a punching bag, but I couldn't feel that she has a personality. I also would like to see more of her 'normal' interactions with Crispin, Basilio, and others.

But its great to see a female protagonist for a Filipino story. If this was a teleserye, Alexandra would have a love interest right away, but from what I can judge from her character she seems disinterested. That's new!

The most interesting part of the story for me was when Alexandra was undergoing her babaylan initation, but we don't get to see what she experiences. I would like to see that in the future. While it may have fantastic elements, the initiation for being babaylan is actually similar (having to surpass a spiritual ordeal).

I just hope that these little things will improve on the next season.

The animation

As for the animation and art, it was pretty solid. I really like that they did justice to the creatures and the setting. Anyone who has lived or been to Manila can say that the art captured the feel and grit of the city. But the sparse traffic and clean streets are not so realistic.

This is not the first Filipino animated series or movie, but probably the first with this big of a potential audience in the world market of viewers.

Liza Soberano's voice acting for Trese: was it any good?

The series drew some attention, some negative, due to the choice of having Liza Soberano to voice Alexandra. I was willing to give it a chance and tried to watch it first with the Filipino audio. But it really wasn't good. Liza's voice seems too dull, flat, and bland - almost no emotion at all. Maybe I didn't like it because while watching, I was too aware of her voice.

We've had plenty of anime dubbed into Tagalog especially in the 2000s, and they had professional voice actors. I guess Liza would have to improve on her voice acting for the next season, because if it was for me, it would have been better if they just got a professional voice actor. In Trese, the voice distracted me from the story. Case in point: in series with professional voice actors, you quite forget that there's someone voicing the character, it just blends. Maybe Liza did her best, but it was really off.

Even my mother who watched with me, who really isn't into anime and wasn't aware of the hype around Trese, didn't like the voice. "The voice seems to have no emotion," was her reaction.

I switched over to the English dub and Shay Mitchell actually did a pretty good job. Shay's voice as Alexandra actually sounds quite sophisticated, and fits her 'badass' character well.

Trese is a milestone in Philippine animation and entertainment

I like that Trese featured artists and voice actors with Filipino heritage. Everything has a Filipino touch from the opening song to the end credits. I love that through Trese, the spotlight will be on Filipino stories and culture.

I hope that if Trese succeeds, local producers will also take interest in creating more original stories to be animated. Our culture is so rich and there is so much potential.

While I am not an avid teleserye fan or a dedicated consumer of Philippine media, I am quite interested in the trends and tropes in Philippine TV and movies. Remember, I wrote a whopping essay on the teleserye Wildflower years ago in this blog? It would be interesting to see what changes or trends that Trese will inspire.

Tales about the supernatural will never get old. Being Filipinos, we live and breathe in a supernatural-tinted world. You might have your own aswang story. Someone you know surely has an aswang story. Walk through Quiapo and just outside the church, ingredients for kulam are sold. Trese captured that culture well.

I am looking forward to read the Trese comics and season 2 of the series!

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