*This is a spoiler-filled review*
Before I drown in accusations of being ‘unpatriotic’, I would like to summarize my thoughts on Trese: It’s… okay.
I was very much pumped when the trailer for Trese first came out. It was hard not to be. A Filipino animated series (no, I’m not calling it an anime) that is going to debut on a global platform like Netflix? That is awesome!
I was hyped, even if I knew nothing about the source material prior to this review.
So after watching 3 hours of Trese (6 eps, 30 minutes each), maybe even more due to my constant shifting from the Filipino to the English dubs, I can safely say that the series is… ‘meh’.
The voice acting
I was born in the 90s, which means I grew up in a time where the Internet was around, but it was terrible. Like, dial-up, 56kbps, kind of awful.
As such, I grew up on animes in the afternoon, such as Ghost Fighter (Yu Yu Hakusho), Flame of Recca, and Inuyasha. All of these feature great Filipino voice dubbing (who could forget ‘Tapusin! Tapusin!), which sadly, cannot be said the same for Trese.
My main gripe is the lead itself, Liza Soberano. I have no qualms against the actor. I liked her performance in Alone/Together. But voice acting is a very, VERY different specialization compared to acting onscreen.
Based on interviews, Liza, whose first language is not Filipino, said she spent two weeks speaking in straight Tagalog as part of her prep for her role as Alexandra Trese.
Two weeks is way too short, especially for Filipino dialogues that are as ‘traditional’ as the ones found in Trese. Even modern-day native speakers would have a hard time reciting the show’s ‘Florante at Laura‘ version of Tagalog, which is barely reflective of how Filipinos speak today.
After all of the criticism the actor has faced, I’m here to say: It’s not Liza’s fault. Blame the production for not giving her enough prep time. Blame the executives for choosing her for her marketing appeal, not for her voice acting skills.
Shay Mitchell, who isn’t a seasoned VA either, was good in the role and is honestly my preference. Save from a few awkward attempts at Tagalog, she managed to capture Trese’s deadpan delivery AND STILL exhibit emotions.
With enough preparation, I believe Liza could’ve done the same.
As previously mentioned, I barely know anything about Trese the comic, save for the first issue, which is free to read online. Safe to say, the plot became confusing and a bit too much in the end.
Trese had a promising start. It’s essentially ‘True Philippine Ghost Stories’ as a detective show. There was a murdered white lady, a vengeful tiyanak, a street racing tikbalang, and aswangs who kidnap people in the middle of the night.
Great! So far so good.
But by the last episode, we had the literal God of War giving exposition dumps about a prophecy, a conspiracy amongst the mythical creatures, Alexandra’s father becoming a traitor, and how he apparently murdered her dead twin (who somehow became a dagger, btw).
What was supposed to be, at the very least, a three-episode story arch was crunched into one overly-long ‘bad guy speech’.
‘Read the goddamn comics’, you might argue. In a sense, you are correct.
Faithful fans of the original books might understand from the get-go. But we have to realize that comic books are a niche medium compared to tv and movies. Meaning that for the casual viewer, which is around 95% of the viewing audience, things need to be more explained clearly.
People shouldn’t be expected to know a thesis-worth of lore just to enjoy an adaptation. That’s up to the showrunner. Marvel tapped its C and D-list heroes to become a billion-dollar franchise. Barely anyone knew who Iron Man was. Or The Guardians of the Galaxy. But they made it work.
I wish Trese stuck more to its ‘monster of the week’ episodes (the tiyanak one was awesome) while laying the groundwork of the overall arch that was to come.
My gut says that this ‘rushed’ approach was due to the fact there are no assurances of a Season 2. Netflix cancels shows all the time, even beloved ones, so worst-case scenario, Trese at least got to tell its story.
Don’t get me wrong: Despite all of the criticisms, I would love to see a second season. Shows are rarely great in their first (*cough* The Office *cough*), and Trese is no different.
Trese feels like one of those series where, given enough room to grow, it has enough source material to find its footing and evolve into a series worth a rewatch. Here’s hoping it gets its chance.