A film where Zootopia meets an R-Rated telenovela, ‘Hayop Ka’ is set in an animated Manila whose inhabitants are anthropomorphic animals.
As the title suggests, the story follows Nimfa Dimaano (Angelica Panganiban), a sassy, flirtatious perfume sales lady (or sales kitty) who’s fed up with her impoverished life with her dog boyfriend, Roger (Robin Padilla), who cannot promise her anything more ambitious than beef pares. One day, a bourgeoise business dog who goes by the name of Inigo Villanueva (Sam Milby) drops by her store to buy a perfume. An instant love chemistry forms between Nimfa and the Christian Grey-like Inigo, putting the former in a dilemma where she must choose between a life with pares and a life with steak.
From the get-go, ‘Hayop Ka!’ has made it clear that it’s not for kids. Sure enough, you won’t let the younger members of your household hear how the characters talk, unless you’d be willing to devote a chunk of your time explaining the sexual punchlines which the film has plenty of. But that’s the point of it all: to portray real Filipino people as candidly as possible. While the movie contains a lot of scenes that will earn incredulous stares from some audiences, I gotta say that it’s its audacity to hilariously present these not-so-pretty realities that makes for the film’s G-spot.
The dialogue is condensed with well-crafted jokes and punny references to pop culture, allowing for a pleasurable time eavesdropping on the characters’ conversations. Sure, there’s profanity and dirty talk all over, but they weren’t put there for the sake of coming across as cool and maka-masa. They needed to be there, in moments where Nimfa and the other animals need to let out their emotions, for the same reason as curse words needed to be heard from the mouths of the teenage couple in Pamilya Ordinaryo.
The majority of the plot takes place in Manila, which is presented here in vivid detail. Yes, it’s an animated film (the first Filipino-made on Netflix, FYI), but throughout the running time, viewers will catch themselves feeling as though they were there, in the reimagined, technicolor city of Sampaloc behind the screen.
Nimfa, a not-so-likable protagonist
Effectively reinforcing the fearless route that this film is taking is the questionable decisions that the main characters make. This is especially true in the case of Nimfa, who gets caught up in the drama brought about by her infidelity. While many Filipino films have already testified that the main characters don’t have to be morally good in order to be loveable, you can still watch a lot of works falling for the trap of being too concerned about the protagonist’s likeability.
Nimfa, as portrayed in the film, is a human being inside a furry creature. Her words and actions provide a window to her real brokenness, insecurities, and values, making her fully relatable regardless of whether she’s admirable or not. This is a lesson aspiring fiction writers and filmmakers should learn: that good works present characters that are not easy to love but viewers will care about.
According to director Avid Liongoren, ‘Hayop Ka’ took four years to finish, with Rocketsheep Studio as the team in charge of the animation. Aside from Panganiban, who admitted that she struggled as a first timer in voice acting but did a job well done nonetheless, actors who lent their voices for the film are Empoy Marquez, Yeng Constantino, Joyce Bernal, and Piolo Pascual. All in all, ‘Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story’ is a splendid result of these people’s talent and hard work. A pioneer of adult Filipino cartoons, it’s a breath of new life not just in Philippine animation but in Filipino films, in general.
‘Hayop Ka’ The Nimfa Dimaano Story is now available for streaming on Netflix.
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