The superstitious believe that the number 13 is unlucky. To the creators of the award-winning, horror-fiction comic book Trese (adapted from the Spanish trece or 13), the opposite is true.
Trese is now onscreen — the first Filipino anime series which premiered 11 June on Netflix.
It’s been an exhilarating journey for writer Budjette Tan and artist Kajo Baldisimo — the dynamic duo who launched Trese in 2005 as a black-and-white DIY komiks.
Back then, they were advertising executives wanting to channel their creative juices into something that didn’t need approval from their corporate bosses.
The story of Alexandra Trese, a woman detective tasked to solve crimes of mysterious origins, the komiks became a series that publishers picked up and released in graphic novel form and in hardbound compilation.
Trese 3: Mass Murders won the 2010 National Book Award for Best Graphic Literature.
Tan developed the idea of a paranormal detective battling aswang (shape-shifting evil creatures) from his childhood memories of elders talking about scary, supernatural monsters.
A BBC News feature (“Trese: What Netflix’s new occult anime reveals about the Philippines”) quotes Bliss Lim, a professor of film and media studies at the University California at Irvine:
“There are multiple types of aswang in Philippine folklore. There’s the witch, the were-beast, the bloodsucker, the corpse-eater, as well as the winged monster who sucks unborn children out of pregnant women.
“Trese draws on aswang lore but updates it in creative ways. They’re underworld denizens of Manila, they’re purveyors of nightclubs or criminal gangs involved in gun smuggling.”
The article likewise quotes Trese writer Tan that the story took off “from what he saw around him in Manila ‘in the best and worst ways possible. Those are the kinds of stories we see from our headlines… so it just made sense — whether it’s about police or politicians, that they ended up getting cast in those roles.”
In 2018, Netflix announced that it is adapting Trese as a full-fledged animated series with a high-profile team: producers Tanya Yuson (Hannah Montana: The Movie) and Shanty Harmaym of Indonesia’s BASE Entertainment; and director Jay Oliva (Extreme Ghostbusters and DC animated movies including The Flashpoint Paradox and Batman: Under the Red Hood) who also handled storyboards on Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman V Superman.
Liza Soberano voices Alexandra Trese in the Filipino-dubbed version. The series has been dubbed in several other languages.
Trese streams on Netflix.