When Trese was first announced as a Netflix original during a 2018 event in Singapore, it was a huge surprise even for the Philippine media contingent there. Unlike the other titles announced that day at Marina Bay Sands, the upcoming Trese series didn’t have teasers – it didn’t even have concept art for the Netflix team to flex.
We know now, of course, that when the announcement was made, the team behind the anime hadn’t even had a story summit yet.
Director Jay Oliva and art director Jojo Aguilar would fly to Manila a little after the announcement in December 2018.
The trip, according to writer and executive producer Tanya Yuson, was also a way to introduce both Jay and Jojo to parts of the Philippines “they may not have been aware of growing up in the US.”
Image courtesy of Netflix
During their visit, the team went to several museums in Metro Manila, including the National Museum and the Ayala Museum. They also had an “immersive experience” of riding the MRT – then already prone to malfunctions – during rush hour. For better or worse, Jay himself was witness to the train’s breakdown – an experience which is depicted in the opening scene of the series.
“Touring the actual locations and absorbing the ambience of the environment – all of the sights and sounds – provided a great deal of inspiration for the series,” said Jay in the production notes for the Netflix series.
The team also visited Balete Drive, where a ghost, often called the “white lady,” is usually found. The white lady’s murder, of course, opens both the comics and the series.
Episodic director David Hartman, meanwhile, relied on Google street view to scout locations in Manila they could use for the anime. Jojo also gave David old vacation photos to use a reference for the shows.
Jay checked out anting-antings (amulets) that were sold right outside a church. He bought one back home to the US but exercised as much precaution as he could.
“We purchased a few for reference, and you’re supposed to do certain things to the charm – like rub it with salt or leave it exposed to the full moon – in order to activate the charm and benefit by its good luck. But if you don’t maintain the rituals, it turns to bad luck,” said Jay.
“So I thought I’d be better off if I didn’t activate it – and I warned everyone at the studio not to activate it when we got back to the US. I didn’t want to mess with what could have happened,” he added.
The heart of the Manila visit, of course, was also a discussion with original Trese creators Budjette Tan and KaJO Baldisimo. KaJO flew in from Davao to talk about the art in the original comics while Budjette, who is based overseas, dialed in so the Trese team “could ask questions about the character and the storylines.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix
Its creators – for both the Netflix and original comics – certainly don’t hold back when talking about how special and personal the project is for them.
“This is one of those special projects where everyone who worked on this, on every level – from development to production to marketing and localization – shared the same passion in bringing this series to life and sharing it with the world. This was a global collaboration with the creatives being led by Filipinos,” said Tanya.
Trese, a Netflix original anime based on Budjette and KaJO’s comics of the same name, began streaming on Netflix on June 11.
The series follows Alexandra Trese, the Lakan ng Sangkatauhan (Protector of Humanity), who upholds the Accords made by humans and different tribes from the supernatural world. She’s occasionally called in by Philippine police to help solve crimes that seem to have supernatural links.