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Comic Book / Trese

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From left to right: Basilio, Trese, Crispin, the local hordes of hell

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don't you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions.

Trese is a Filipino indie comic, written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. Starting publication in 2005, it is about Alexandra Trese, a Private Detective who solves crimes related to the supernatural in the city of Manila.

An animated series was streamed worldwide by Netflix, produced by Shanty Harmayn and Tanya Yuson at BASE Entertainment, a studio based in Jakarta and Singapore, and directed by Jay Oliva, who directed several DC Universe Animated Original Movies and Young Justice (2010) episodes. It stars Liza Soberano (in Filipino) and Shay Mitchell (in English) and was released on June 10 2021. Trailer here.

This comic provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Trese is Filipino (derived from Spanish) for thirteen. The classical Tagalog equivalent is labintatlo.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Wind People are one of the races Trese encounters. In Book 2 and Book 6, there is also the Bagyon clan, lightning elementals that Trese becomes at odds with. In the extra notes from Alexander Trese's journals, there's also the Star Tribe. The Santelmo is also a fire elemental that Alexandra can summon from her cellphone, and in Book 8 where Alex travels to Jakarta, the banaspati exists.
  • Exact Words: "The blood of Trese will soak the roots of the The Great Balete Tree." It never said which Trese, right, Anton?
  • Eye Remember: Alex uses the Testigo spell in which she takes out someone's eyeball and puts it in a glass of water, in which she uses to scry, the liquid is can be poured onto a hanky which produces the last thing that the owner of the eyeball saw. In "The Collection" there's a variation of this spell where she only needs to wrap the eyeball in a handkerchief and stab it while uttering the spell to produce the image.
  • The Fair Folk: A lot of the creatures Trese deals with fall into this category. Duwende are hobbit-sized creatures who live in unassuming places, but demand respect and give it in turn. They can grant gifts or cause misfortune depending on their disposition or how they are treated. They love sweets, but can be killed by 'tasting hate'. They also control mud golems called Lamanlupa.
  • Good-Guy Bar: The Diabolical, of which Trese is the proprietress.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Kambal are children of Talagbusao, a Bukidnon god of war and Ramona, a human woman.
  • Missing Mom: Trese's mother has not been seen yet, except through flashbacks. The Last Full Show implies she died at Trese's 8th birthday.
  • Monster of the Week: Although, as of Book 5 and Book 6, the stories are becoming serialized arcs, instead of separate stories.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One story involves analogues of two famous Philippine drama actresses. A later one includes a Manny Pacquiao-like figure. In book 5 and 6, The Madame was introduced, a jab at former first lady Imelda Marcos.
  • Occult Detective: When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Trese.
  • Our Demons Are Different: There are different demons residing in the Underworld, some take a more human form, and some a more animalistic form. The ones that Matthias Trese often encounters take the form of giant insects, like ants, wasps, and spiders.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They appear to be of the Chinese variety, able to take human form and can breath fire.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Combined with the above, the "Elves" are, effectively, Tikbalang. In their natural states, they have horse heads and feet, but can use glamours to make themselves appear human. All the symbolism applied to horses fully applies to them. Deals/bargains can be struck with them.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: With the right rituals, normal ghosts can be killed. Then there's the Tiyanak, monstrous baby-zombie-ghosts created by the deaths of unwanted or abandoned children...who come out of an underground abortion clinic.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Their bones can be used to bind ghosts and make them physical. They also can use glamour to walk on land, and they don't have faces. But there are also sea elementals that are called Taga-Dagat, and they have a more humanoid, fish-people look. There's also Dolfy and Ting, who can turn into different sea creatures, mainly a dolphin and a shark.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Being based in Filipino folklore, the monsters are very diferent from what's commonly put out in fiction.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Aswang and Manananggal. They don't suck blood, they suck up viscera and, if they can, infants and the unborn. By day they are people, but at night they sprout wings and their torso detaches from their legs and their upper part flies off to feed. They claw open homes and use their long tongues to stab prey and suck out their nourishment. Manananggal are exclusively female, but effectively the same.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Type R, but behave like Romero shamblers for the most part. They're controlled by a magic stone at the behest of a sorcerer.
  • Our Souls Are Different: They can be sold, burned, taken...and are called "Kaluluwa".
  • World Tree: The Great Balete Tree is a nexus to all realms and according to the Prof. Alexander's notes, it is an entrance to the different layers of Skyworld and the Underworld. This is also where Alexandra takes her Rite of Passage to become the Mandirigmang-Babaylan. In which it seems to be a Year Inside, Hour Outside or, possibly, Narnia Time
  • Wreathed in Flames: The Santelmo is a fire elemental that can be summoned by punching down the number of the Great Binondo Fire onto a phone, any phone.