Which is the best version of 'Trese'? Here's why watch it in Filipino, English, Japanese

Kathleen A. Llemit - Philstar.com
Which is the best version of 'Trese'? Here's why watch it in Filipino, English, Japanese
Scene from 'Trese'
Netflix / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Which version of "Trese" is best: Filipino, English or Japanese?

After "fangirling" over the new badass anime of Lex+Otis and Tiger Animation now streaming in Netflix, watching it at least four times and reading the novels from which it was based, here is an honest review of what can be expected from experiencing it dubbed in different tongues. 

Filipino: No place like home

Sure, we all laughed so hard at Sakuragi's "Isa akong henyo" or Rukawa's deadpan "Gunggong" when we all watched the Tagalog dub of the Japanese anime "Slam Dunk." Those wisecracks elicited all the laughs and even found their way to Pinoy slang. But we all know the characters aren't Filipinos and the story is set in Japan. Subconsciously, there's a disconnect.

"Trese," however, is Filipino. The heroine, Alexandra Trese, was born and raised in the Philippines. She lives in Manila, where she would at one point need to ride the problematic MRT (Metro Rail Transit). She eats pandesal and relishes drinking taho. She's basically one of us.

Who wouldn't be extra "kilig" when Filipinos would hear "Ulol," "Inalat," "Anak ng kamote," "Umayos kayo" and a slew of well-loved but unprintable Pinoy expletives uttered by the characters? "Trese" is rated for 18 and up. Sorry, kids.  

They were words and phrases we, Filipinos, use in our everyday conversations. We're the only ones who can feel how "lutong" the "mura" is. We are the only ones who can relate how pandesal and taho are such exquisite breakfast treats bringing up funny memories such as chasing after "Mamang Taho" who is like a stealth ninja with his quick strides while carrying his wares.  

So, even if there was a minor irritation in hearing a bit of twang here and there, the Filipino version is still the last one after the cycle of three that I watched simply because there's nothing as relatable and comforting as my own tongue talking back to me.

English: Star-studded come-on

Alright, English dubs have always been not an option for me. I'm a firm believer of watching a drama, show or anime in their original language. There's nothing like listening to the characters speaking in their mother tongues, no matter how foreign they sound to me.

The come-on for the English version of "Trese" is the star-studded cast. Now, don't go hard on being a reverse snob on me. I know what most anime fans are griping about when it comes to voice acting -- stunt casting.

While it is debatable whether it was the case for "Trese," I am still curious to listen to big-name stars like Shay Mitchell, Jon-Jon Briones, Manny Jacinto, Darren Criss and Nicole Scherzinger voicing the cast. Most are Filipino-Americans and Filipino-Canadians who were glad to be part of the project spearheaded by another accomplished Filipino-American, Jay Oliva.

Will they sound as good as they do when they're just acting or singing? Will they be able to pull off a "Pinoy Pride" casting coup?

Casting big stars in animated movies or series is nothing new, and Netflix's "Trese" is an ambitious project that aims to spread Filipino culture and folklore to the global audience. The star-studded cast is just a come-on.

Bottomline: a lame ass story will always suck and flop if the story does not intrigue or mesh well together.

"Trese" is anything but lame. It's rich in culture, character and Filipino pop culture references that if you're a Filipino, you would surely be drawn into its world.

Who wouldn't since most of us grew up with stories of the "nuno," "dwende," "tikbalang," "kapre" and "aswang" told by our lolos, lolas, relatives and househelp?

So, the English language is like a bonus for me. I enjoyed it as much as the Filipino version.

For some, it's their other option if they find they can't stand the Filipino version. Yup, I have friends who completely gave up on the Filipino version and switched to the popular combination of English subtitles, Japanese dub.

Japanese: King of dubs

There's a reason the Japanese are the kings of voice acting. Isn't it a wonder why anime is a hugely popular cultural import? Apart from animation and storytelling, Japanese voice acting is considered god-tier level. There's even a word for it: "seiyu."

Now, how did the Japanese version of "Trese" fare? It's the usual Japanese level of perfection. For someone who is not a native speaker and only knows  her "baka," "okasan," "otosan" and "nani," I understood everything that was said in Japanese.

It's not the words; it's in the emotions I feel every time a line is delivered. Anger, frustration, irritation, amusement, boredom, guilt radiated through the Japanese voices. Hard to imagine? Not when we're talking about Japanese voice actors.

The Japanese dub is undoubtedly made for those who love their anime. Yes, "Trese" is marketed as an anime by Netflix. Some have contested that saying that the term is exclusive to animation made in Japan while others choose to be more lax with the definition. Whatever it may be, Netflix's "Trese" is still animation.

When I rewatch "Trese" again (I know I can be super extra!), it would be my favorite combination whenever watching animes -- Japanese dub, English subtitles. Or I might just sit through the Filipino version if my temperament is up for it.

Bonus: Loop-worthy soundtracks!

I cannot end this article without giving a huge shout out to the amazing OSTs (official soundtracks). Both the opening and closing songs have never made me click the "Skip" and "Next Episode" buttons.

The opening song, which some netizens say is an Ifugao song titled "Balluha'd Bayauhen," is an atmospheric hymn that perfectly accompanies the opening credits and its amazing character artworks.

UDD's "Paagi" similarly makes one ponder on how it suits the overarching theme of "Trese" -- Alexandra's sense of duty as the enforcer of the human world amid her reluctance to face her "prophesied" destiny in the Underworld.

There's no real formula on how to enjoy "Trese." As they say, "whatever floats your boat," as long as you hit the start streaming button. One this is for sure: It certainly deserves a second season!

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