It is a gritty supernatural procedural/neo-noir anime that is more of an allegory of our societal ills than the re-imagination of a popular folklore.
‘Trese’ is the adaptation of a Filipino horror award-winning comic by Budgette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. The series revolves around Alexandra Trese, a no-nonesense detective who investigates crimes involving supernatural/paranormal phenomena in the dark alleys of Manila.
At first glance, the anime is visually stunning. I like the choice of color. The utilization of a dark palette juxtaposed to the hyper-realistic Manila skyline at night creates a brooding atmosphere and an immersive experience.
What I especially like about 'Trese' is that it has a strong female protagonist (Alexandra Trese) who is not driven by romance and doesn’t need a man to breathe life into her character. She is enough and she gets the job done. She's smart, strong-willed and independent and goes about her business with skill, precision and lack of emotional attachment--as it should be. She's a total badass and everyone defers to her.
The Philippine folklore is an untapped resource and bringing the mythological characters, monsters and magic to life in 6 (30-min) episodes effectively could be a daunting task but the directors and show runners did just that in a coherent and relatable manner.
It's just that at times, the storyline can become a bit convoluted as there were tons of monsters and supporting characters in 'Trese' that had very little backstory and were not properly fleshed out. There were a few moments in the series where I played 'catch-up' but once I began to settle down and connect the dots, the story moved seamlessly.
I watched the English version of 'Trese' and I paid special attention to how it was dubbed. Sure enough, the Fil-American/Canadian voice talents had noticeable accents when they spoke in Filipino which was understandable. What I found iteresting was how the rest of the voice talents felt the need to deliver their English lines in thick Filipino accents. Maybe it's a creative choice to add some sort of flare to their delivery. Nevertheless, I found it contrived and unnatural at first. It took some getting used to but after a couple of episodes, I didn't mind it anymore.
What makes 'Trese' scarily relatable is not the magic spell or plethora of monsters but the familiarity of the subject matter it's lampooning. It's a social commentary guised as an anime.There were a lot of obvious allegories depicted in 'Trese' like dark forces for criminality, the underworld for Manila's dark underbelly and monsters for criminals/crooked politicians just to name a few.
The anime also touched on the familiar horrors of everyday life in the Philippines such as terrorism, corruption, police brutality, decaying infrastructure and inadequate public transport. AIl of which struck a chord with me. Perhaps the surprising breath of fresh air amidst the horror was the portrayal of flawed yet somewhat competent cops especially Captain Guerrero. They were being humanized in the series and were portrayed as cops who were just trying to do their best given their unfavorable situation.
As Netflix’s first Filipino animated show, 'Trese' has succeeded in both tone and intention. Sure, there were some glaring missteps along the way. But they were not in any way, fatal mistakes but rather, teachable moments moving forward. It's gritty, immersive, painfully relatable and with a badass female lead for good measure--basically everything you want from an animated series.