Netflix’s new animated series takes place in Manila, Philippines, where we follow Alexandra Trese as she upholds the peace and rules set forth between the mystical creatures of Philippine mythology and the humans.
Netflix’s Trese is an adaptation of the Filipino comic series by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo. You could see the effort that this anime is putting into staying faithful to the source material with the art style and the Filipino folklore. Although some comic book fans would say that the anime had a brighter theme and the overarching plot was not done as it was in the comic books, other fans would appreciate the way the anime avoided the episodic style of storytelling.
The anime adaptation already has six episodes that take the bulk of the stories from the comic book series and beautifully combine them in fluid storytelling with added flashbacks not found in the comic books.
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The Trese Story
Trese follows Alexandra Trese, a Babaylan warrior that inherited her position as Lakan from her father, Anton Trese. She is an unusual detective, often called by the Philippine police officer, Captain Guerrero, to help in solving crimes involving supernatural creatures.
With her twin bodyguards: the “Kambal sigbins” and a little help from her information broker: the “nuno sa manhole,” she goes from crime scene to crime scene encountering the occasional dead ghost and vampiric creature. She goes on to solve minor problems until it all ties together, and we realize that it was all under the direction of a supernatural crime syndicate.
Differences from the Trese comic series can be seen as this anime series ties all three volumes into overlapping story arcs that bring the story to life.
Trailer Of Trese by Netflix
English, Filipino, Japanese
The brand-new series is available to watch in Filipino and Japanese, as well as English dubbing. In the English Version, Shay Mitchell voiced Alexandra Trese, joined by the likes of Dante Basco as one of the lightning elementals, Lou Diamond Phillips as the main antagonist, and Nicole Scherzinger for Miranda Trese, to name a few.
The Filipino dub would hit closer to home for the Filipino fans as the characters’ wouldn’t have an American accent when saying Filipino terms. Alexandra Trese is voiced by Liza Soberano.
The Japanese version, I have to admit, is the best dub of the series. The tone and delivery of the lines in the Japanese version hit differently and havier thanks to the experienced voice actors. Taking the lead for Alexandra Trese is Ryoko Shiraishi; with a lot of anime experience under her belt, she gave the character the heavy tone I would expect from reading Budjette and KaJo’s award-winning Trese comics.
Although the spells and the names of the supernatural folklore are spot-on in the Filipino dubbing, the English and Japanese versions also did a great job calling the mythical creatures by their Filipino names, rather than just labeling them the generic “demon” or “ogre.”
Filipino Mythological Creatures and Folklore in Trese
Before we dive into the Philippine folklore and mythical creatures in Trese, we need a short rundown of what the Philippines is. The Philippines is an archipelago of more than seven thousand islands. It is located in southeast Asia bordering the western part of the pacific ocean. This makes it a perfect hub for Asian merchants way before Europe circumnavigated the globe, so there may be many folklore and legends similar to neighboring countries, like Japan, China, and India.
Before Spain invaded and took control of the archipelago, the natives were polytheistic. Much like Japan and China, the natives believed in forest spirits, fairies, elementals, and the like. Being an archipelago means that the myths and legends would differ for every island and region. The Trese series takes the most common of these Filipino folklore into one setting and mixes it up with the noir genre.
Nuno sa punso
“Nuno” or “ninuno” is simply an ancestor or old man in Filipino. Punso means a mound. Nuno sa punso roughly translates as an old man on the mound. The myth goes that the nuno sa punso is a nature spirit that takes the appearance of an elderly dwarf. They are said to inhabit mounds of dirt like anthills or termite mounds. These nunos are believed to be very territorial and are very quick to anger. When chopping down trees, clearing a field, or walking across a field or forest, it is believed crucial to ask permission from the nuno as not to be subject of their revenge or anger.
In Trese, we see nuno taken out of the forest and placed in an urban setting where he inhabits the underground by way of manholes instead of mounds, so it’s just right to call him Nuno sa Manhole. Nuno, in this story, is Alexandra Trese’s information broker as she serves her supernatural detective function.
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Duwende is what may be equal to hobgoblins or the Japanese Tengus. The myth is that these small creatures live in the forests but as humans encroached and started building communities into their territory, they have learned to dwell in the houses, yards, and along the roads or paths. They are known to be mischievous little creatures that would steal items and play tricks on unsuspecting humans just for fun. They are also known to bring good luck and create big opportunities for those they favour. But in some regions, they are sometimes blamed for the disappearances of kids and adults alike.
In Trese, we see a duwende that aided an actress’s rise to fame while sacrificing a few things along the way.
In Filipino mythology, the laman lupa would refer to any creature of the earth elementals. The duwende and the nuno would count as a laman lupa. But in Trese, we see laman lupa as mud golems or earth golems that the nuno summons as protection.
The white lady myth in Filipino folklore is a ghost or soul of a woman that has unfinished business. These ghosts are usually clad in all white, pale faces and long black hair. Sound familiar? It may be similar to a yuki-onna in terms of appearance. In some regions, although similar in appearance, the white lady is said to be a vengeful spirit looking for revenge or a companion, much like the kushisake onna.
The most famous white lady in Filipino folklore is the white lady of Balete Drive. She is said to have caused many accidents on that street. Some accounts state that a lady in white would flag down taxis and other vehicles in the dead of night, and if you let her ride, she would either kill you or just disappear from the back seat. We see this white lady in Trese, but we don’t see her in action; rather, we see her as just a victim to a bigger scheme that is taking place in the series.
Santelmo is the remnants of a soul with unfinished business in the realm of the living. It takes the form of a ball of fire or a ball of light. They sometimes are seeking revenge, help, or retribution. They are known to chase people or lead people to where they need to be. In Trese, we see santelmo as something that helps Trese in dire situations. All Trese has to do is call him from her very sturdy GSM cellphone. The phone number is used actually has a meaning: it’s the date of the great Binondo Fire in Manila.
Tikbalang is a mythical creature that is a humanoid horse. In some parts, they are said to be two meters tall, while in other parts, they are fifteen meters tall. In some legends, they are responsible for bizarre weather conditions. At the same time, in some, they are guardians of the gateway to another realm. Some depictions are humanoid horses that stand upright on their two hind legs, while other depictions are reminiscent of Mezu from Japanese folklore.
In Trese, we meet a gigantic Tikbalang that was the chief of a tribe while his son was only around two meters tall drag racing on Manila streets, destroying cars and kidnapping helpless women.
Sigbins are mystical creatures that could take the form of giant dogs. In some places, the Sigbins are said to be familiars of witches and demons. In Trese, the sigbins are loyal assistants to Alexandra, recognizing her as their master. These creatures closely resemble the inugami in Japanese folklore.
Filipino folklore tells of vampiric babies that cry like infants to lure unsuspecting people. Babies are harmless; after all, they can’t hurt you, right? But when picking up what appears to be an abandoned infant, the tiyanak will transform and attack! Some legends say that these creatures result from babies dying before being baptized, stillborn babies, or abortion victims.
In Trese, the tiyanak was an abandoned baby looking for its mother. The appearance of the, according to folklore, is a baby, nothing else. That is mainly because it is said that the only ones who saw the tiyanaks true form were already devoured by the tiyanak. The series depicted the tiyanak as a spiderlike creature that can crawl up walls and pounce on unsuspecting victims.
Aswang is the general term for flesh-eating monsters or demons. The aswang are said to be ancient clans that pass on their demonic powers from generation to generation. Some aswang are infectious, while some inherit these supernatural powers. In Trese, we see a lot of variations of aswang, from the ghoul-like to the Mananangal.
Diwata are nature spirits that are usually known to be the caretakers of nature. Faes if likened to western cultures and Major Kami in Japanese folklore. Like the Kami, there are different diwata for forests, rivers, mountains, hills, and anything else found in nature. We don’t see a lot of the diwata in Trese except for a short glimpse in the council meeting.
Legend has it that the Kapre is a tree giant who likes to smoke his tobacco in the branches of trees. Kapres are said to dwell in big trees like acacias, mangoes, bamboo, and the likes. It is also mostly seen sitting under those trees. They are said to smell so bad, they can be smelled from miles away. They are said to have a belt that could make them invisible to humans, and a small stone that whoever could steal it from the kapre would have their wish granted. In Trese, we also only catch a glimpse of these creatures.
Mermaid, Kataw, Siyokoy
Kataw, Sirena, and Siyokoy are the Filipino folklore equivalent of merpeople. The kataw and sirena are half fish, half-human creatures, always female, that, in some areas, are said to drag swimmers and fishermen to the bottom of the sea. In other stories, the kataw would lead or grant fishermen a bountiful harvest. The siyokoy, on the other hand, are humanoid reptile fish things that are always depicted as evil creatures that not only attack swimmers and fishermen at sea but would sometimes go onshore to kidnap people living near the sea. In Trese, the Kataw was just but a passing reference, while siyokoy is just seen in a few frames.
Engkanto are nature spirits that resemble the elves of western cultures or the minor kami of Japan. In Filipino folklore in some parts, the engkanto are residents of a forest, river, lake, sea, mountain, or any other natural place. They are said to be very protective and would entice or kidnap people that would harm or trespass in their territory. Some stories say that the engkanto would present themselves as humans and join in society to find human partners and eventually lure them to the forests for unknown purposes. Other stories involve hikers being lead astray and in circles for months while being taunted by these nature spirits. In other parts, they are known to have elemental attributes that command the wind, water, or lightning. In Trese, we see the elemental engkanto in the form of wind spirits and lightning spirits, one of which is voiced by Dante Basco in the English dub.
This one is not a creature but one of the superstitious beliefs in the Philipines. Tabi-tabi po, roughly translated, means excuse me or make a way in a polite manner. We hear this a lot in Trese as this is the universal way of asking passage or permission from any mythical creature in Philippine folklore.
Kulam is another superstition that could roughly translate to voodoo or curse. The only difference is that a kulam would only affect the guilty, so a kulam on a wrongfully accused person would have no effect. Some kulams are done with dolls, and some are done with hair and photographs, and the effects would vary depending on the “Mangkukulam” or witch that would do the kulam. Some affect the movement while some would slowly rot muscles away, and some would lose their hair. It really depends on the imagination of the mangkukulam.
Balete trees occupy an important place in Filipino folklore. Known to other parts of the world as a type of strangler fig that encircles other living trees and slowly kills them by cutting off the life-giving nutrients they need to survive. In Filipino folklore, though, balete serves as home to all manner of supernatural creatures like tikbalang or diwata who live inside its many chambers. In some places, they are known as the gateway to the realm of the engkanto. It is also known as the best place for witchcraft and other rituals. Some Philippine Baletes have been around 1,000 years old, with more than one chamber found inside their trunk through centuries past. We see a balete related ritual in Trese. The white lady is also found in balete drive. That street is also known for other supernatural incidents attributed to the fact that the whole street was once populated by balete trees.
Babaylan are the shamans of the pre-colonial Philippines. They were said to have the power to communicate, appease the spirits and gods, and ask magical creatures like the sigbins for assistance. During the Spanish era, though, the babaylan were then labeled as witches and demon worshipers. It is also said that on the island of Panay in the Philippines, these babaylan were skilled warriors apart from being shamans. The babaylan would attack Spanish settlements in the dead of night, using blades with the help of engkanto, sigbin, agta or kapre, and duwendes.
So, there you have it, anime fans, what we know about Trese and the folklore it is based on. Although it’s not clear if this would be a crime anime, a detective anime, a horror anime, or even deserve to be called an anime, it’s a great watch for the story arc, animation, and folklore. Did we miss any Filipino folklore in Trese? Do you think this deserves to be called an anime? Let us know in the comments what you think. But don’t forget to watch it first before you pass judgment. Enjoy!