X-Geeks

Trese (Season 1) Review

By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

This review is spoiler-free.

Synopsis:

In Manila, where dark supernatural forces pervade the criminal underworld, it’s up to Alexandra Trese to keep the peace — but there’s a storm brewing.

Shay Mitchell voices Alexandra Trese in this adaptation of the Filipino horror comic by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo.

The original comic series was written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo, both of whom act as showrunners on the show. Tanya Yuson and Jay Oliva are charged with bringing Tan and Baldisimo’s property to Netflix and served as both executive producers as well as writer (Yuson) and director (Oliva). Jay Oliva is such a talented storyboard artist and animation director so I think the series was already on strong footing, even before production began.

Trese was adapted from the first three volumes of the comic series, by head writers are Zig Marasigan and Mihk Vergara, and I was very impressed that they managed to compress so much story and character development into just six episodes! I was genuinely concerned that six episodes was not enough time to successfully showcase this unique concept and folklore heavy world, yet somehow they get the pacing just right. Would I like a longer second series? Absolutely! Not because I don’t think they’d be unable to pull this achievement off again, but just out of pure greed, as I absolutely love these characters and have become obsessed with Filipino folklore – a rabbit hole I have since dived head-first into.

Visually, Trese is a very beautiful series. The locations, backgrounds, textures and colouring of the world and its characters are simply breathtaking. While the series has an obvious mix of Japanese and Western animation-style, there is also a very unique Filipino style as well, and it’s this triple blend of artistic methodology that gives Trese its unique and visually striking look. Having compared the original comic material to the show, it is a very honest portrayal of the style.

I have watched this series twice, in both the English dub and Filipino version, just to get a full flavour of the series. Sometimes, an English dub isn’t great, but it is clear that a lot of time and effort was taken by the cast to get to grips with the language, especially with the pronunciations of certain nouns. They also made the artistic choice, in the dub, to perform all the spells in the show in Filipino, rather than English. The English dub’s Alexandra Trese, Shay Mitchell, is half-Filipino, and this was very important, as the creative team behind Trese have said they always wanted that Filipino influence at every stage of the production, so this was just another way to keep those authentic ties in the show.

Shay Mitchell, best known for her role in Pretty Little Liars, doesn’t have a history of voiceover work, but she does a really convincing job here as the show’s lead. I love how strong, yet flawed, her character is written. I’ve seen some people online referring to Alexandra Trese as a ‘female Constantine’ which I think is a huge disservice to the character, and this is coming from a Hellblazer super-fan! Yes, there is an obvious influences and comparisons, but the character is also unique in many different ways. Supporting Mitchell are two voiceover veterans in Matt Yang King (Captain Guerrero) and Carlos Alazraqui (Anton Trese) who you can always bank on putting in great performances. The legendry Steve Blum (Datu Talagbusao) also makes an appearance throughout the series and I can never have enough of him! At every level, in both the dubbed and Filipino versions, the cast do a tremendous job helping to create this characters. It is a very strong cast from top to bottom.

It’s a bit of a cop-out, but the show doesn’t have any obvious flaws. It gets the horror and supernatural tones perfectly blended with the drama and emotional beats of the story. It uses its more gory moments sparingly and with meaning. There is no over-the-top or unnecessary filler tropes here, be that in terms of violence or in the show’s darker story moments. Trese gets so much right, which is an incredible achievement and the cast and crew can be really proud of what they have accomplished.

Trese is a visual masterpiece with exceptional cast performances all contained within a world of exciting and unique Filipino folklore and supernatural wonder! If you like a strong female lead and lots of magic and supernatural exploits, then Trese is well worth your time!

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