Alex The Ghost Fighter: A Review of Netflix’s Adaptation of Trese

I just watched finished watching all six episodes of the animated adaptation of Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldismo’s Trese and I really wanted to share my thoughts into this one.

No, we’re not just here to talk about Liza and her way with speaking in Filipino. Also, I’ll be getting my information about the comics on Trese Wiki and I haven’t read the comics yet but I am fully aware of it’s existence so you may want to take any information about the comics with a grain of salt.

If you’re living under a rock for the past, say, eight years, Trese is a series of books penned by Budjette Tan with art from Kajo Baldismo. It revolves around Alexandra Trese, a spirit detective of sorts who solves cases that the local PNP can’t solve through traditional means because of, you guessed it, spiritual activity. It also gives a bit of insight about a much grittier take on social commentary especially with it’s setting, mid 2000s Metro Manila and the people and places surrounding it.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Visuals: The visuals really deliver the grim atmosphere the comics had and the animation remind me of Jackie Chan Adventures/Batman: The Animated Series at best and The Wanderings of San Mao at worst.

I can understand the way the characters look and why they look like a mix of Jackie Chan Adventures, San Mao, and Ghost In The Shell: SAC because it’s really hard to replicate Kajo Baldismo’s art in terms of animation. It has the same scenario with Fritz The Cat and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a 1:1 copy of the art style isn’t a good fit for animation.

Basing on the screenshots of the first story here, I’d say 2021 Alexandra’s model is mostly on-point with the 2005 one because as you’ll notice, unlike the 2018 version, the animated model has a more pointy chin and the facial features are more pronounced just like the 2005 one. Some characters like Guerrero, Anton, and the Sisa Twins (that’s what I would call Crispin and Basilio here) are almost on point with their comic counterparts while others like Tapia here don’t resemble their comic counterparts but that’s okay, it’s not like they play major parts anyway in the comics either.

Animation is fluid for the most part and as I’ve said, it has it’s San Mao moments where in there are obviously some frames were missing on the scene that they either speed up the sequence or just repeat the same frames multiple times. I’m no animator so I have no right to say if the animation is either good or bad but with what I’ve seen so far, it’s a step up to what you see on local TV for years, implying that Filipino animated series ever existed since the rotoscoped Ang Panday anime (yes, I said anime. It’s not 2014 anymore.).

The setting seems to be a blend of mid-2000s Metro Manila and it’s 2021 self. You can see Alex using a Nokia 3310 to summon Anselmo and the mayor seems to be more of a version of Joseph Estrada who was still imprisoned at the time and not the enemy of the Ayala Center/QC crowd, Rodrigo Duterte although I admit there are some hints of Digong in him.

Story: The story is quite intriguing and it really makes you want some more especially with the relationship between the humans and the underworld. In fact, Trese reminded me of Yu Yu Hakusho. Well, most of it.

You see, Trese and most of YYH have a lot of similarities. Alex exudes the rigidness of Shinobu Sensui as a spirit detective, the Council kind of acts like the tribes in the demon world, Talagbusao kind of acted like Raizen providing exposition to what led to the events and such.

Either I watched too much anime or it might have something to do with the similarities between Filipino and Japanese beliefs about destiny and that time follows this rigid, unchanging cycle and that there are things that are bound to happen, no matter what you do and the whole familial thing and there should be a balance between good and evil.

In most of the episodes, it follows this format wherein the first part of the show gives us a glimpse of the group’s first encounter with Talagbusao that came straight out of the Mass Murders anthology, the Serial Experiments Lain-esque opening video, a story unrelated to the first part and the ending credits. As with animated adaptations, some stories were changed to fit the medium of a television series and some parts of the story were excised to fit the 30 minute run so you might be missing some details if you already read the comics. Otherwise, I don’t see any plot holes for the most part if you’re new to the series.

Sound: Okay, this is the section where Liza Soberano comes in as I watched this with the Tagalog dub. I would say that yes, it’s obvious that Liza knows little to no Filipino (through no fault of her own as the Soberano household is one of those English speaking zones) but in terms of delivery, her tone fits the character of Alexandra Trese. Alex is serious, focused, and not the person you’d see cracking a joke out of nowhere and with how she delivered it, in terms of the pitch of Alex’s voice, is 100% on point as to what you think Alex should sound like.

The same cannot be said with some of the other characters though. The head of the tikbalangs doesn’t sound like a mythical horseman from the underworld but he sounds like how you would imagine Andre the Giant would sound in your head if you haven’t heard him speak.

The main problem of the dub though, is how lines are being delivered in terms of intonation and this is not just present on Liza because everybody has that problem. It sounds like everybody is reciting a poem or something and in some cases, it’s with the script they’re being given with. The Trese comics aren’t published in Filipino like most of it’s contemporaries like Pugad Baboy, they’re written in English and as far as Filipino translations go, they went ahead with the formal Tagalog route with some exceptions for some characters (i.e. the Sisa Twins).

I don’t know if they went with Bob Ong’s translations (he translated the first volume of Trese back in 2015 as a special edition release for Komikon 2015.) or the Netflix team went ahead and hired a professional translator, and with that I mean a translator who specializes in formal and legal paperwork and not creative pieces like this one but I can say here that the lines and how were they written affected how the characters sounded to an extent. The good news is that it grows on you as you watch along so by the end of episode 6, you’ll never notice the line delivery snafus because you got hooked by the story.

The soundtrack really fits the series’ gritty atmosphere. It’s not Geinoh Yamashiro-gumi type of gritty but it doesn’t sound like it’s out of place with what you’re seeing because, it just fits.

Overall: I can’t say for those who have already read the comics but for someone who is already familiar with it’s existence but haven’t seen any of it yet, or a total newcomer to the series, this is a great entry point. It will want you to read the comics in any way, shape, or form.

If you’re turned off with the Tagalog dub, you can always switch to other languages but the dub in itself is pretty okay at worst and good at best. If you want to watch it in Tagalog like I do, take note of the translation thing and watch at your own risk.

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