Netflix’s Trese Adaptation Is a Perfect Introduction to the Graphic Novel

Netflix’s Trese has enough differences and commonalities with its source material to keep viewers wanting more.

Netflix historically does not release viewing numbers, but if Trese‘s post-credits setup for Season 2 can be believed, the original animated series has done well in enough countries to warrant a renewal. The more people who watch this dark, complicated supernatural horror anime, the more people will likely seek out the graphic novel of the same name on which it is based.

Netflix, currently battling with Disney+ for viewership numbers, has a rapidly growing library of animated shows. As savvy algorithms suggest Netflix-created shows to viewers who watch anything with similarities to Trese – which include, among other things: anime and animated shows; graphic novel and comic book adaptations; horror and mystery shows and shows about urban legends and monsters; female-led shows; and Filipino shows – it’s likely many viewers who have never heard of the graphic novel Trese will discover the show and follow it back to its origins.

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At only six highly serialized episodes, Trese is an appealing, easy show to binge. The short, 22-26 minute episodes function almost more like a movie broken into chapters than a long-form show and tell a coherent story that leaves viewers wanting more. From there, it’s an easy jump to seeking out the original material, whether to find out more about the compelling, complex protagonist Alexandra, to see some of her crime-fighting and mystery-solving that didn’t make it into the show, or to examine some of the mysteries left hanging in Season 1. Even before the show premiered, its announcement led to a second printing of the graphic novel, which indicates a high interest in the origin story as fans follow Alexandra and her complicated family across different formats.

But the biggest reason viewers are likely to seek out Trese‘s graphic novel and not just move on to other animated shows boils down to the Netflix adaptation’s gorgeous style. Trese’s art pays close attention to style and color, as well as composition and movement. Many still images are reminiscent of panels from the source material, and every episode has one or two wide shots that are reminiscent of graphic novel two-page spreads. These shots, which often appear only once instead of being re-used as establishing shots the way many animated shows re-use their art, add a lot of detail and show off the artist’s different skillset.

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In addition to the more complex art, the show often uses a camera pan movement that feels like a viewer’s natural eye motion glancing over a panel or page instead of simply having characters move within a frame or in front of a still matte painted background. Trese also borrows from some graphic novel work in how it uses different color washes to really set scenes apart; sickly green saturation in one scene may shift to blood-red colors soaking the whole next scene, and each dingy alley or underground room is lit differently. The show’s language and cultural accuracy are another big draw; much care was taken in representing Filipino legends, and the writers include phrases and original terms from the novel in scripting and dubbing/translating, using subtitles to explain when necessary.

Of course, none of this would matter if the show didn’t work in and of itself, but Trese doesn’t just tell a story not often seen on a global platform; it makes sure to include humor, pathos, and real-world issues among its plot twists and beautiful art. That Netflix’s adaptation has taken such care to feel and look like the complex graphic novel it sprang from shows promise for Season 2. Meanwhile, the complex story and style mean viewers who enjoy the series will likely want to take a closer look at the source material.

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