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Netflix’s Trese: Beacon of hope for Filipino storytellers

According to a graphic novel writer

Illustration by Migs Buera

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The wide, deep, and varied world of comics or graphic novels was something that remained unexplored until I was forced to because of work. As an introductory lesson to comics and graphic novels, Trese was a part of my reading assignment. And since they did not have all the volumes of Trese, I went on a hunt for it.

The one I got is the Trese: Book of Murders which is in English. It was a quick read but I was more curious to read the Filipino version. Either way, I finished it within the same day I purchased it. And I loved it.

Though I did not delve deep into the fandom, I was curious enough to join the Facebook group and to check on updates every now and then which was why I cheered when I saw that there was going to be an animated series based on the comics.

“Sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.”

On keeping the art and story

It had been around three years since I last read the entire thing and I needed a refresher. I finished it just an hour before the series was available for streaming.

I watched the entire series in one sitting. Starting from the surface, the art is gorgeous and very pleasing to the eyes, but maybe a tad too Western than what I would have wanted.

Trese

I am not saying that they should have copied the exact art style from the comics but maybe it could have been a bit more Filipino-looking. As much as I adore how Alexandra Trese looked, she looks almost American-Japanese. But, nevertheless beautiful.

Story-wise, it did not change a lot but it surely compressed it a bit. Maybe a bit too much that they had to rely on voiceovers and flashbacks in order to touch on important parts and deliver the story without leaving too many loopholes.

It was understandable but some parts felt dragging just because it was compressed. But that could also be due to other factors. And sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.

“I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza.”

The never-ending discourse about the dub

Now onto the part that everyone has been talking about even before it started to stream―the dub. There’s Filipino, English, Japanese, and Spanish the last time I checked.

I tried it all and I have mixed emotions. I originally went for the Filipino dub mainly because I wanted to get the full Filipino experience. Out of curiosity, I rewatched one episode and tried the other languages.

The Spanish one was almost natural but maybe that’s because of the familiar words that we have adapted. The Japanese one was interesting, giving that anime feel that was kind of cool and maybe had the most emotion among the dubs.

Trese

The English dub was also nice but some Filipino terms and names tend to sound kind of slang. With the Filipino one, it was the most natural one… vibe-wise.

But what I did not like about the Filipino dub was the lack of emotions in some parts and mainly from Alexandra Trese. Though it was established that Alexandra was not that emotionally expressive, she sounded so monotonous throughout the entire series.

Maybe, just maybe, Liza Soberano was focusing on her enunciation that she was not able to deliver enough emotions in her lines. But other than that, I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza. Just a bit more voice acting workshop, I guess, and she’s good to go.

TRESE (L to R) CARLOS ALAZRAQUI as SANTELMO and SHAY MITCHELL as ALEXANDRA TRESE in episode 101 of TRESE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Setting up the stage for other storytellers

It may not be perfect and polished as others may have hoped for but I do hope that Trese can pave the way for other Filipino comics, and other local stories to make their way to a more global or international scene.

Philippine mythology is filled with deities and creatures, which are varied depending on every region of the country. The most common deity mentioned and used is Bathala, the Supreme Being in the Tagalog region, while the most common creature used is the aswang.

Even in the American fantasy TV series “Grimm”, they featured the aswang, but I personally think we have other creatures that are far more horrifying. There is the sigbin which looks like a dog but it walks backwards with its head lowered and it sucks its victim’s blood but during Holy Week, it hunts children for their hearts. That’s just one of the many.

A lot of Filipino creators have shared their vision and interpretation of our mythology and folklore such as Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo, Mythology Class by Arnold Arre, Ella Arcangel by Julius Villanueva, Janus Silang by Edgar Samar, and more. From popular titles to independent creations that you would see at a smaller comic convention, more artists and writers are showing appreciation for what is ours.

Plenty of mythology to explore

At first, I was not aware of just how vast our own mythological world is and I only knew very little folklore. But when I started to work in Epik Studios Inc., I had to read and learn more. What made me delve deeper was during the time that I was tasked to write the modern take on Bernardo Carpio. Instead of sticking to the popular creatures for the villain, I researched creatures that are barely used. Not only did I find a fitting villain for Bernardo Carpio, but I also found inspiration for new stories that I want to write in the future.

We have a rich folklore and mythology that has yet to be fully showcased but we have a lot of storytellers who wish to show it to the world. It’s about time that we do.

Watch Trese on Netflix.


This opinion piece was written by Patch Aviado, a creative producer and a writer who worked on graphic novels such as Bernardo Carpio, Pedro Penduko: The Legend Begins, Maria Makiling, and Osyana. Together with Viva Books, she published Garden of Sunflowers. Currently, she’s working on an online novel entitled Blue Hearts, Purple Roses. When she’s not writing, she’s busy fangirling.

Entertainment

Arcane Act III: Gobsmacking finale

I am lost for words

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Arcane

Act I: A treat for every League of Legends player

Act II: Whirlwind of emotions, understanding

Act III: Gobsmacking finale


This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I wasn’t prepared for Arcane to end. And for the emotions that astounded me throughout the series’ third act.

I was delaying the inevitable; that this series will come to an end. I delayed watching the final act on purpose, just like I would with any other show I’ve fallen in love with.

But I’ve faced the end and I was utterly speechless. With every episode ending, I found myself dumbfounded with all the revelations, twists, and cliffhangers.

I thought Arcane would be predictable, especially when you base it on the game’s lore, but it wasn’t. And that made me love Arcane even more.

Art that gets better

Just when you thought the animation was already marvelous, it got even more magnificent. The introduction of more characters, sceneries, and changes in the plot often require brilliant storytelling.

Arcane slew it with its visuals, majorly between Ekko and Jinx — childhood friends turned enemies. The two brandished the contrasting ideologies in the city of Zaun.

The fight scenes also got sprightlier, thanks to the advent of HexTech through the weapons. I was ecstatic when Jayce whirled his hammer and he transformed it into a cannon, much like in the game.

Honestly, I wondered why I didn’t have a crush on Jayce when I was playing League of Legends, but I find him bewitching in Arcane.

On another note, Vi’s gauntlets punch through walls and bones with ease. Her clash with Sevika is one of the reasons why I was reminded of my love for martial arts. I can only dream of doing those stunts.

Riot certainly outdid themselves in the visual presentation of Arcane. It was carefully planned and executed. There’s no wonder the series got people hooked — even if they aren’t fans of League of Legends.

Taking a wild turn

Arcane is so damn unpredictable. Knowing the game’s lore could be the endgame, and indisputably the future of these characters. But let’s forget that for a moment.

What Arcane showed is the prosaic, everyday passing through the lives of the champions who lived in and crossed Piltover and Zaun. We even got a glimpse of what Noxus feels like — another empire in the land of Runeterra — through Mrs. Medarda.

Yes, the scheming councilor that our beloved Jayce is knocking boots with, has a parent come over to the City of Progress.

The third act expanded the story and its characters. How their lives are intertwined and divided by the circumstances surrounding them. And how it’s setting up for a war that might take place in the near future.

Unbeknownst to these characters, their lives are connected in ways they’re unaware of.

The collab we never knew we needed

Arcane exhibited different pairings we never expected. Caitlyn, Vi, and Ekko — teaming up to go back to Piltover and clashing with Jinx.

Heimerdinger discovers Ekko’s ingenuity and the two work together. (Bye, Jayce!)

Vi and Jayce shut down Silco’s manufacturing plants.

And even a peace agreement between Jayce and Silco to prevent war.

The series gave a platform to various dynamics; clashing personalities and upbringing brought together for one common goal.

Anticlimactic ending

I would’ve thought they’d cross each other in one grand finale, but the ending wasn’t what I expected. But somehow, it’s a serendipitous way to end the first season.

So open-ended, it presented possibilities on what’s next. Fans delighting in coming up with theories on how the story will pan out, especially for Season 2 — which Riot and Netflix have already promised to deliver in the future.

Though a bit anticlimactic, personally, I’m elated that I watched Arcane these past few weeks and it ended the way it was. I didn’t have the good ending I hoped for, but it gave me the opportunity to yearn for more.

Having a second season might give me the answers I’m searching, and the excitement I’ve been looking for. Riot hasn’t disappointed so far, and I’m certain they’ll make a grade with a masterpiece when the next season arrives.

Arcane is streaming now on Netflix.

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Netflix Cowboy Bebop: Odd remix to the original’s jazz

Might give fans of the anime the real folk blues

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Cowboy Bebop
Cr. GEOFFREY SHORT/NETFLIX © 2021

The work, which becomes a new genre itself, will be called… COWBOY BEBOP.” 

The line above is an excerpt taken from the text we see flying around in the opening sequence of the original animé. It’s a sort of manifesto to the intentions of the show — a new genre itself. The animé, which first aired in Japan in 1998, more than lived up to this. Netflix’s live adaptation certainly tries its best, but what it ultimately achieves is an okay cover of a masterpiece.

Before we proceed, we think it’s only right to put a big fat SPOILER WARNING here. While we won’t go into specific details, some parts of this review/reaction to the series might contain mild spoilers. You have been warned.

Cowboy Funk

If you’ve been keeping an eye on Netflix Cowboy Bebop, you’ve likely seen the teasers and trailers they’ve put up thus far. These sample tastes don’t veer too far from the overall feel of the entire series. It’s colorful, campy, and full of energy.

For the most part, the production got a few things right. We can’t really comment much on the editing since we were told some final touches were still being applied. Essentially, the screeners we got aren’t the final cut. But it was supposedly good enough to be shared with reviewers.

There was plenty of care and attention to detail put in the overall set and costume design. It does, somewhat, capture the world of Cowboy Bebop… just in a different lens.

Some of the fight choreography felt clunky but we’re gonna chalk that up to this not being the final cut. Most other physically demanding scenes looked great. There were just a few that we felt needed more polish.

Overall, the show feels zany but not in the same way that the Cowboy Bebop animé was. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s different, but somehow the live action just lacks the grit of the original. Instead, it feels like a mashup of the 1960s Batman starring Adam West and Saban’s many Super Sentai adaptations, only a tad bloodier.

Jupiter Jazz

COWBOY BEPOP (L to R) JOHN CHO as SPIKE SPIEGEL in COWBOY BEPOP Cr. GEOFFREY SHORT/NETFLIX © 2021

What’s holding this together is the brilliant performance of John Cho as Spike Spiegel. He nails down the character to a T and is what pretty much carries a bulk of the show. He is nonchalant and carefree on most days, but is worked up every time his past hovers around him. Exactly the Spike we know and love.

Other than that, it’s his banter with Jet Black (Mustafa Shakur) and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) that give the live action adaptation any semblance of the animé. The scenes featuring these characters together are easily the best parts of the show.

COWBOY BEPOP (L to R) DANIELLA PINEDA as FAYE VALENTINE, JOHN CHO as SPIKE SPIEGEL and MUSTAFA SHAKIR as JET BLACK on the set of COWBOY BEPOP Cr. NICOLA DOVE/NETFLIX © 2021

They did make changes to the characters. Changes are generally okay, if they work. However, we can’t say that’s true here. For Jet, the key change was okay. But how it will affect his character and the show was telegraphed at best and predictable at worst.

My Funny Valentine

COWBOY BEBOP (L to R) DANIELLA PINEDA as FAYE VALENTINE in COWBOY BEBOP Cr. GEOFFREY SHORT/NETFLIX © 2021

Meanwhile for Faye… it’s hard to nail it down. To get it out of the way, I thought the costume change was fine and practical. No issues there. But part of what makes Faye Valentine a femme fatale felt lacking.

Daniella Pineda perfectly captures the character’s rough edges. It’s the silkier side that was missing, and this isn’t because she’s not built like the Faye in the animé. Faye, despite learning to be rugged, still maintained a certain air of sex appeal that was simply missing in the live action adaption.

Of course, yours truly writes this being fully aware that he is a straight man commenting on how a female character should appear sexy. Faye is, for better or worse, a heavily sexualized character in the animé and perhaps they wanted to tone it down. However, maybe there could have been a way to execute it without completely shying away from the matter.

On the flip side, this version of Faye could be empowering to women. This writer is personally still unlearning the many trappings of the patriarchal society we live in and is excited to listen to conversations about the character.

Brain Scratch

To mixed effects, we see more of Vicious (Alex Hassell) and Julia (Elena Satine) here than in the animé. For one, it does a generally good job of providing a bit of backstory to the two key figures in Spike’s past. However in doing so, they start to feel less like the characters in the animé.

Instead of simply fleshing them out, what came across on screen seemed like alternate universe versions of the characters. For Vicious, this is especially true in the early to middle part of the series. Where animé Vicious felt ruthless and menacing, the live action Vicious felt a lot more whiny and unhinged.

Julia will be polarizing. The arc her character goes through is fascinating in that she goes from a simple love interest — a damsel in distress if you will — to a woman acting out of her own agency. But the choices she makes towards the end of the series felt unnatural for her character.

The Real Folk Blues

COWBOY BEPOP (L to R) JOHN CHO as SPIKE SPIEGEL on the set of COWBOY BEPOP Cr. NICOLA DOVE/NETFLIX © 2021

In a media availability, the main cast talked about how much those who worked on the show revered the original. That’s certainly evident in the production design, dialogue, and selected episodes of the live action adaptation. There’s plenty of near one-to-one recreation of scenes in the animé that will make any fan gasp with excitement.

However, in their desire to expand, the showrunners miss some story beats, subtle moments, and character nuances that make the original animé great. Instead of the smooth soulful Jazz feel of the original, what we get instead is an odd remix that may be a little off key.

Cowboy Bebop streams on Netflix on November 19.

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Arcane Act II: Whirlwind of emotions, understanding

It’s like an emotional check-up!

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Arcane Act II

Arcane

Act I: A treat for every League of Legends player

Act II: Whirlwind of emotions, understanding

Act III: Gobsmacking finale


This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

URGH. That’s the last screech I let out in front of my Samsung The Serif TV when I was hooked watching Arcane’s Act II. It was the sound of frustration from someone who wanted more.

The second act progresses the series with world-building scenes, side stories, and the foundation for that one big finale. Instead of scattered introduction from the first act, Arcane gets to expand the lore for every champion and significant character in the story.

We got glimpses of the characters’ lives and what they’ve become after the time jump. But I’m not going to spoil you with the fun that you can discover while watching Arcane. Instead, let me share with you all the emotions felt.

Arcane Act II

Processing deaths and loss

The element of grief is prevalent in the story’s major characters. They say time heals everything, but not with grief — or at least for those who didn’t process them well.

For Powder, Marcus, Vi, and even Caitlyn — losing people can take a toll on your mental health. Similar to our waking reality.

The pandemic has taken the lives of some of my friends. Even parents and families of colleagues and loved ones. And I would admit: I haven’t even processed my emotions fully. I barely gave myself time to cry and surrender to the void I’ve felt.

Arcane Act II

Arcane presented the reality of grief and mourning. Even though you seem fine on the outside, and even if you look like you’ve already moved forward, the void is still there until you ought to address it properly.

Marcus and Caitlyn remembered Grayson, the enforcer killed in Act I. While Marcus sees Grayson as a good woman, he continued her path but became severely corrupted in the process.

Arcane Act II

Caitlyn, on the other hand, remembers fond memories with Grayson and how the enforcer helped her believe in herself and her skills as an excellent marksman even at a young age.

For Powder and Violet, the circumstances are different. Powder became a madwoman in the streets of Zaun, working for Silco as Jinx. But she’s a harrowing account of trauma and broken inner child.

Everywhere she looks, she gets haunted by her memories: Accidentally killing her friends, hurting her family, blaming herself for being abandoned.

She became unstable caused by her guilt. And she badly needs a therapist. But I’m sure she’s going to shoot and bomb anyone who’ll try to get her treated.

Vi spent years in a locked cell, treated like a dangerous criminal that needs to be isolated. After being released and traveling back to Zaun, her memories started haunting her. However, Vi is embattled with repressed emotions, and sometimes, it gets the best of her.

Arcane presented how loss and grief manifest differently in those who were left in the living.

Relationships are tricky

Arcane magnified relationships — business, platonic, romantic, and sexual connections — throughout the second act. Jayce, who’s stepping up to be the next shiny thing in Piltover due to the progress he’s making in the city, realizes he has to be careful.

Being in the public eye and the brain behind the innovation, everyone can be his enemy or an ally.

This is true even in waking life, where we need to play our cards right. When gaining status and power, depending on how you deliver and present yourself, you can choose your friends and foes.

With the help of Councilor Mel Medarda, Jayce got investors to back his Hextech research and even gain the favor of other Councilors. This helped him establish dominance in the Council and got support when he pushed for Heimerdinger’s retirement.

Concurrently, Jayce and Mel Medarda are knocking boots. After a vulnerable moment was shared, the two ended up kissing and having sex — sharing a passionate night while Viktor collapsed due to his illness while working on the Hextech.

Though Jayce slightly felt torn between his friend and his girl, Mel Medarda asked Jayce to spend time with Viktor and to put him first. The lady knows the code: bros before hoes.

Not all reunions are worth celebrating

Vi and Powder got a tearjerker reunion. Though I got real emotional, the reunion was cut short when they were attacked by the Firelighters — a gang that Jinx ambushed earlier in the second act.

Arcane Act II

If Taylor Swift could sing in Arcane right now, it would’ve been “All Too Well”. Especially that line “you called me up again just to break me like a promise” because that’s how Powder probably felt. Once more, Vi is leaving her again.

On another note, Vi saw how much Powder has changed. Years of being in survival mode had turned Powder into Jinx the madwoman. Or in the game’s data, “The Loose Cannon.”

Arcane Act II

There were no exchanges shared regarding how much they’ve changed, but their eyes and facial expression have shown the disconnect between the two sisters. Separated by fate, ripped by strife, torn by the events that changed their life.

Arcane Act III will premiere on November 20, 2021.

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