The other shoe has finally dropped. Trese, that beloved series of Filipino comics from writer Budjette Tan and artist Kajo Baldisimo, that has long been rumored to be up for adaptation as either a TV series or movie. Several local producers and entities have made their respective pitches to Tan and Baldisimo over the past few years with varying degrees of success. Yet as every year passed, Alexandra Trese, twin bodyguards the Kambal, and the other characters that occupy their supernatural adventures remained in komiks form. On November 8, Netflix announced at their “See What’s Next in Asia” event in Singapore that Trese will instead be turned into an animated series from director Jay Oliva.
“We can all say thanks to Tanya Yuson and Shanty Harmayn, our producers from BASE Entertainment,” shares Trese co-creator Budjette Tan. “Around five years ago, around 2013 appropriately enough, Tanya and Shanty started to actively pitch TRESE to foreign studios and they also met with local studios and networks. I am amazed at the number of directors and producers who have already read Trese and that all happened because of Tanya and Shanty’s hard work.”
For fans of the Trese series that was first published in 2005, the news spread like wildfire on social media. The combination of Tan’s insightful writing and knowledge of Philippine mythology and folklore, combined with Baldisimo’s amazing art and renditions of creatures that have haunted generations of Filipinos helped make Trese one of the most popular locally produced comics in the past decade as the launch of every volume saw fans scrambling to get a copy. At the different local conventions such as Komikon, Summer Komikon, Indieket, and Komiket, a line forming in front of the Trese creators was a common sight. Yet even as the book grew in popularity and the Trese fan group on Facebook grew in numbers, many kept wondering if the title could indeed jump from one medium to another.
Full disclosure here, in the years that I’ve read and loved the Trese comic and made friends with both Budjette and Kajo, I’ve become aware of how so many have wanted to bring Alexandra Trese and her paranormal adventures to either the small screen or the big screen. I heard stories of different production companies throwing all sorts of ideas at the Trese creators but tinkering with the property so much that would make it unrecognizable for its fanbase. And Trese has a very passionate fanbase that discusses the books on a regular basis on top of either cosplaying as Alexandra and the other characters or wearing shirts approved by the creators.
In the book, Manila is a dark place with a seedy underbelly haunted by mysterious forces. When the crimes get too grim or gruesome or if the violence is unexplainable, the police led by Captain Guerrero call on private investigator Alexandra Trese. Aside from her paranormal activities, Alexandra is the proprietor of the dive bar known as The Diabolical. She is also constantly accompanied by the Kambal, supernaturally-powered gun-wielding twins wearing masks traditionally symbolizing comedy and tragedy. Armed with a knowledge of the mystical arts including the kris called “Sinag,” Alexandra calls on her own mystical informants as she weaves her way through the malevolent and mythical around the city.
“After five years of pitching a live-action Trese and for various reasons of those deals not pushing through, when the opportunity to pitch an anime version to Netflix came up, we gave it a go,” Budjette says. “By adapting Trese into an animated series, we don’t need to worry so much if we have enough budget for SFX and CG to render all the monsters and creatures in the best way possible.”
“As far as fanbase is concerned, the anime viewer is already used to getting introduced to new worlds and myths and creatures, so it would be interesting to see how the global anime fan will react once they’re introduced to our aswang, tikbalang, and Trese,” he adds.
In a moment of insight, Budjette (who is currently based in Denmark for work) also notes how Trese taking anime form strangely seems like coming full circle for himself and Kajo. “It also felt appropriate for Trese to be adapted into an anime since one of the big influences for Trese was the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex anime series, which was showing on cable back in 2005,” he bares.
“The funny thing is, me and Kajo didn’t know we were watching the series until after we started working on Trese,” Budjette notes. “I asked him, ‘What inspired you to draw this…’ and he asked me, ‘Where’d you get the idea to write that…’ and we both answered Ghost in the Shell! And some of my favorite anime became my introduction to certain manga titles like Akira and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.”
With the deal signed, Budjette can’t quite go into detail yet regarding the contract with Netflix. “Maybe I’ll be able to do that when we’re closer to the release date of the series,” he says. But that’s all in the future. For now, the important thing is that Trese is indeed jumping off the comics page at last and in a form that won’t be restricted by budget constraints that might otherwise be imposed on a live action series. Budjette is not quite closing the door for a live-action Trese in the future, but for now, the excitement for the coming anime series is palpable.
“I am excited to see Trese and her underworld come to life in anime form,” Budjette says. “I’m excited to share to the world our Philippine myth and folklore. I’m sure (executive producer) Jay Oliva and the team will do a great job in bringing Trese to life on the screen.”