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Why You Should Watch Netflix’s New Filipino-Themed Anime, Trese

Based on the critically-acclaimed comics by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, Trese is an original Netflix animated series that follows the story of Alexandra Trese, an occult investigator with magical powers. She is also the resident lakan/babaylan, aka warrior/healer; one who upholds the balance between the mortal and the spiritual world.

While the concept may not be 100% original (think Hellboy, John Constantine), what makes Trese unique is its Filipino setting: the story happens in the bustling city of Manila, and features many characters and creatures from Filipino mythology. 

When it comes to the fantasy genre, we’ve had plenty of stories revolving around Western, Egyptian, Roman and even Greek mythology, but very little on Southeast Asian culture – which is why the hype was massive (especially in the Philippines) leading up to Trese’s release. 

And I’m happy to say that it does not disappoint. 

Synopsis: 

Mysterious crimes are happening all across Manila, and they seem to be from supernatural causes. At their wits end, local police enlist the help of Alexandra Trese. Alexandra’s family has long acted as a bridge between worlds –  her father Anton was once the laban, while her mother was a babaylan (shaman) – so ever since she was born, Alexandra has had a strong connection to the spirit world. In the course of the series our heroine, together with her twin bodyguards Crispin and Basilio, investigate a string of murders and disturbances – culminating in encounters with beings such as aswangs (man-eating vampiric ghouls), duwendes (goblins), tikbalang (horse-like creatures), zombies and tiyanaks (baby vampires). The events are not isolated, and indicate that something catastrophic is coming – which would involve the destruction of both the human and the spirit world. 

Why You Should Watch It 

Trese’s Filipino touch makes for a unique and refreshing take on the fantasy genre. I mean, it’s not everyday that you get an animated series based on Southeast Asian mythology – which is a shame, because the culture is so rich with amazing stories, symbols and characters. The fact that it’s on Netflix is a great step in the right direction (especially in today’s climate where companies are looking to champion diversity), because it appeals to a modern audience of young Filipinos to reconnect with their roots, and at the same time, introduce the culture to an international audience. 

While the creatures are fascinating, you also get Filipino references in things such as Alexandra’s weapon (a kalis, which looks very similar to a Malay/Indonesian dagger called the keris). Another example would be Alexandra’s bodyguards Crispin and Basilio, who were named after characters in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. In the first episode, Alexandra investigates the apparent murder of the ghost of the White Lady of Balete Drive – a Filipino urban legend that is as popular as Bloody Mary might be to the British. 

And then you have a plethora of pop-culture references to spot: in one episode, a movie studio where Alexandra and her team investigates has a sign saying ‘ABC-ZNN’, a cheeky play on ABS-CBN, the now-defunct major TV news network that was embroiled in a licensing controversy last year. You also get glimpses of everyday Filipino life: commutes in jeepneys and packed trains, a neon-lit skyline – all captured through a pretty art style that perfectly showcases Manila’s chaotic beauty.

Granted, I think sometimes these references might be lost on non-Filipino audiences (I only knew about Crispin and Basilio because the hubs and I were discussing about Philippine Independence Day – I initially thought Crispin was from St Crispin and Crispinian), but even if you’re non-Filipino, it’s not crucial to the plot, and doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story. They’re more like hidden Easter eggs that those in the know will find satisfaction in spotting. 

But what I like the most about Trese which sets it apart from others is that it does not shy away from shining the spotlight on real Filipino issues such as police brutality, the drug war and abortion, in a country that is highly religious and predominantly Catholic. Which to me shows that care has been taken to ensure the show is as culturally accurate and as relevant as possible. It’s not just one of those ‘feel-good, show only the best side’ kind of stories. 

Alexandra’s character, despite her grim demeanour, is likeable and well-developed. You feel for her doubts and her struggles, living in her father’s shadow, constantly being told that she is ‘just like him’, but yet feeling inferior that she might not live up to people’s expectations of what she should be. But at the end of the day, I like that she finds her own strength – and the message that one can trust to someone they look up to to guide their actions, but not need to be exactly like them.

My only peeve with Trese? The pacing is good in the beginning but feels extremely rushed towards the end – as is common with many animated series. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Trese, and I think it’s worth a watch for fans of animation and fantasy stories alike. First Raya, then Trese – maybe this will be the start of the rise of Southeast Asian-themed shows. I’d love to see one with Malaysian mythological characters like Badang (not like the shit that starred Aliff Syukri, I mean a proper one), Mahsuri and Hang Tuah. 

Now, tabi-tabi po. Time to go catch up on some Trese!

Love Toys and Superheroes? Check Out Mancave Cafe and Collectibles @ Bandar Puteri Puchong

Normally I’m not into the whole hype thing with new cafes because I hate lining up (so many better things I could do with my time… play computer games, for instance. lol) but this one, I really wanted to go to after seeing a friend’s Instagram post.

That’s because MANCAVE Cafe and Collectibles in Bandar Puteri Puchong is home to dozens of lifelike toys and figurines from superhero/fantasy/sci-fi comic books, novels and films. A place where you can eat/drink AND admire these figurines at the same time? It’s literally a nerd/geek’s wet dream come true.

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Mancave is tucked on the first floor of a three-storey building within BP’s commercial district, just down the road from McDonald’s/Starbucks. I think because it’s still new it was quite empty during our visit.

Like the village idiot, I literally went ‘Wahhh’ when I entered the place. Toys and figurines lined the center island, which was surrounded by bar stools. The space had a dash of steam punk married with purposefully unfinished design elements: a metal grille separating the dining area, coiled steel lamps, a cool black and grey colour scheme, balanced out by warm yellow lighting, wooden floors and exposed brick walls.

Chose to sit right in front of The Hulk. It was so lifelike it looked like it would have readily smashed its fist into my face at any moment. Everything from the seemingly real tuft of hair, the crease of the Hulk’s indestructible pants (have you never wondered why he never rips them but goes through his shirts like nothing?) down to the figurine’s toenails and individual teeth were done to minute detail. It’s no wonder die hard collectors are willing to shell out RM15,000 for this.

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Next to Hulk was the Black Panther, complete with a background piece. This was comparatively cheaper at RM3,000++ lol.

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Other Marvel superheroes, the likes of Thor, Captain America and Ironman.

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Tore myself away from the figurines for a bit and went to check out what they had on the menu. There’s an interesting-looking ‘moss cake’, muffins, bagels, croissants and juices. Patrons can also choose to order pizza, pasta and waffles, although the menu is quite limited atm.

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Cosy lounge area.

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S ordered waffles, which came with a side of vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was nice and creamy, not too sweet, and topped with some marshmallows and a mini pretzel. Waffles were also nice and fluffy, drizzled over with some chocolate sauce.

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Just had dinner earlier so went for a hot chocolate. Again, not too sweet or cloying, which was just the way I liked it! The chocolate was thick and milky, and they serve it in a nice big mug.

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Another section of the cafe, dedicated to the Dark Knight.

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Different version of the Bat.

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This area looked like a long vanity mirror. Good for selfies, not so good for Eris I would not eat while looking at myself as if I don’t know I’m fat enough omg. Some decorative busts sat overhead.

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The other side of the fence had some DCU characters.

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Harley Quinn from Arkham Asylum. Love the ruffles and the boots!

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Transformers fans can feast their eyes on this majestic figure of Megatron. Only RM10k. lol.

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Then there is this wooden cabinet housing more Batman items, as well as some Lord Of The Rings figurines.

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If I had the money, I would legit get one of these, put it on an altar at home and fk with my kids’ friends when they came over to visit and see a Gandalf shrine.

“Your mom worships this?”

This is why I shouldn’t have kids

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I am a fan, but not big enough of a fan to correctly identify what troll this is and which part in the series it appeared in

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Smexy Deadpool. I found the latest movie kinda meh tbh.

Spent some more time sipping the hot choco and admiring the sights, then we ended up at McDonalds anyway because I wanted fried chicken.

All in all, a really cool place to hangout! I suggest visiting while they still are still relatively quiet now and not yet swarmed with crowds.

MANCAVE CAFE AND COLLECTIBLES 

17-1, First Floor, Jalan Puteri 7/13A, Bandar Puteri Puchong, Selangor.
Business hours : 2pm-12am (Mon-Fri), ;12pm-12am (sat-sun)
Tel: 012-260-9512

facebook.com/mancavecafecollectibles/

 

 

 

Comic Art Festival Kuala Lumpur (CAFKL3)

Although I like reading manga, I’ve never attended a Con (short for convention): which is basically an event where manga/anime/cosplay lovers can get together, showcase their work and mingle. One of the biggest Cons here in Malaysia is the Comic Fiesta, held annually at KLCC and which attracts thousands of visitors.

Organised on a smaller scale is the Comic Art Festival, which makes a return for the third time this year. Unlike the Comic Fiesta, which features all things related to the manga/anime subculture including music bands, cosplaying and such, the CAFKL focuses mainly on comics and illustration.

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I thought it’d be a good experience to attend a Con, and since both the bro and I like reading/drawing manga, I dragged him to CAFKL3 @ MakespaceQuill City Mall over the weekend. The event wasn’t free – we had to pay RM15 for a ‘passport’, which entitled us to an info booklet and an all-access, two-day pass. There were well over 200 booths crammed into the space – even the walls were pasted over with drawings, comics and illustrations. Most of the exhibitors were independent, self-made artists – some drew doujinshi (fan art), while others had web comics or mini-manga series for sale. There were also loads of artsy items, such as posters, stickers, badges, printouts, notebooks and more.

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I’ve lost touch with our local comic art scene since I started working (used to be an avid reader back in my college days!) so most of the new names were not familiar to me; but it was still great watching the artists in action. They’re all so talented! Makes my doodles seem like childish scribbles lol. 😡

I once had dreams to be a cartoonist/illustrator. Needless to say, that got crushed. My parents didn’t approve of making it a career, so it became a hobby instead and I took up journalism.

These days, I find I have less and less time to even draw anything. Sigh.

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Commissioned arts ! You can pay the artist to draw something for you. Course, most of the stuff doesn’t come cheap, but they do put a lot of effort into creating these works so if you’re truly a fan, it would be worth it.

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Forum, featuring Black Jellyfish, a local Chinese cartoonist who uses the Internet as his main medium. I think Facebook plays a huge part in creating viral trends and marketing a webcomic these days, allowing the content to reach audiences like never before.

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The session I was really looking forward to was the forum with a bunch of local web comic artists – Abam Apam, Lok Foong, Vulpine Ninja, Min and Hwei. I follow Abam and Vulpine on FB, and I love their witty, humorous comics – especially Vulpine’s social commentary which manages to provoke thought while being funny at the same time.

The group spoke on how they found their audience online, channels that they used, how they dealt with challenges and such.

The forum could have been better conducted –  the moderators weren’t good at asking questions and ‘leading’ the panelists, which was really frustrating because they missed a lot of good points. Nonetheless, it was an insightful session, especially when the cartoonists offered advice to aspiring artists.

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Not sure if they’d like to have their pictures public, so I took the liberty of putting cartoon faces. 😀

Did I enjoy CAFKL3? 

There was a lot to see, but I’d only recommend it for die-hard manga fans. Being a casual reader, I got bored pretty fast. I didn’t buy a lot of stuff coz they were very pricey and I couldn’t afford paying more than the Rm15 for entry 😡 I was also disappointed as both panel sessions were badly moderated, awkward and the moderators were not good at prompting, resulting in a lot of uhms, ahs and answers that lari tajuk. lel 

Overall, it was a good Comic-Con experience. Would I go again? Maybeee. I’d like to go to the ComicFiesta once, since they would have more things to see and do, like games, cosplay, music and such. Let’s see how it goes.

Thanks for reading!