‘Trese’: A binge-worthy Filipino anime on dark creatures

Published June 15, 2021, 11:35 AM

by AJ Siytangco

NETFLIX’s “Trese” is adapted from the graphic novels of the same name by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo.  The show follows the adventures of Alexandra Trese, a hard-boiled, no-nonsense Keeper of the supernatural peace. 

Part detective, part shaman, all badass, she fights to keep the streets of Manila safe from the dark creatures that roam in the shadows. Consulting with the police on crimes that involve the world of the unseen, Alexandra struggles to keep a balance between the forces of light and dark.

It is a concept that rings true to a lot of the material Tan himself has said to be his sources of inspiration. Shows like “X-Files,” “CSI” and “Twilight Zone,” and comics by the likes of Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman helped form the seed of what would eventually become “Trese.”

A good number of those involved in the Netflix adaptation are Filipino or of Filipino descent. From the director Jay Oliva (Justice Legue: Dark, Young Justice, Teen Titans: Judas Contract) to the executive producer Tanya Yuson (Hanna Montana: The Movie) to the voice actors Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars) bring their A-game to “Trese,” resulting in an accurate, if somewhat fantastical version of Philippine life.

The characters “Trese” and her friends face are drawn from the vast well of Philippine mythological creatures. They are presented in a modern light but not at all disconnected from their folkloric origins. These creatures, from the tikbalangs to the aswang tribes are depicted with respect and dignity. These are formidable beings, not childish caricatures.  There is gravity to them; pacts are honored,  favors traded,  and threats are very, very real.  You will not find any kenkoy moments here, no sir. “Trese” is serious stuff, as the stories are pulled from the stuff of nightmares.

There’s a lot of humor and in-jokes only Filipinos will understand, such as vaguely veiled references to real places or institutions. Though not central to the understanding or enjoyment of the show, the little in-jokes do add a level of fun to the show.

While the six episodes each explore various facets of Philippine folklore, they delve into everyday realities as well.  “Trese” feels very much in the now, despite the source material being released in the early 2000s.

There has been an upsurge of Filipino pride with the release of the show on the streaming giant, and with good reason.  While Filipino culture has been touched on in international shows such as Grimm, and Crazy ex-girlfriend, “Trese” represents something more.  This is something made by Filipinos about Filipinos, for the world.