A cross between Zootopia and Xerex, and the sort of raunchy romantic-comedy that one might see in a Metro Manila Film Festival lineup, Avid Liongoren’s Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story is the first of its kind in Philippine cinema.
It premiered on Netflix on 29 October — only in Asia — as the first Netflix animated film from the Philippines — a country now divided by strong political views that netizens even attempted to boycott it because Duterte supporter Robin Padilla is in the cast.
Hayop Ka! — produced by Piolo Pascual and Joyce Bernal — tells the story of a flirtatious pussycat, Nimfa (Angelica Panganiban), a perfume saleslady who lives with her janitor boyfriend, Roger (riotously voiced by Padilla), a giant, lustful mongrel who could not afford a motel for their sexcapades. A cat and a dog so into each other that they frequently do it in the workplace seems absurd — but not in this fantasy world, where interspecies relations are perfectly normal.
Nimfa and Roger live in the slums of Sampaloc (drawn in breathtaking detail), where residents listen to a radio program hosted by a Papa Jack-like personality who dissects the mysteries of sex and romance. While Roger is content living in poverty, Nimfa, whose exposure to “culture” only comes from Hollywood rom-coms, dreams of something better. In one melancholy scene, she even imitates a woman enjoying a post-coital smoke — her notion of sophistication.
One day at work, an elegantly dressed Siberian Husky named Iñigo (Sam Milby) saunters in to buy perfume. Perhaps taken by the pussycat’s micro-mini, the well-bred and ultra-rich doggy shows instant interest in Nimfa. Bored of sex in the workplace and anniversary dates in paresan houses (cheap roadside diners) with the unrefined Roger, where she traditionally eats the “take one” portion of Roger’s “Buy 1 Take 1” orders, Nimfa finds Iñigo a welcome change.
And so unable to resist this cosmopolitan, thick-furred dog’s romantic advances, and thrilled by his world of unimaginable wealth, Nimfa surrenders to Iñigo’s desires. Soon, Iñigo becomes Nimfa’s Christian Grey, and in no time experiences what Roger can never possibly give her — from a fast-food burger to a helicopter ride, to a luxury vacation in Batangas. And, of course, they engage in bedroom acrobatics.
The Saving Sally director clearly intended the film to be crass; mining its humor from the exploits of a working-class cat, a typical older sister who works hard to send money to her family in the province, but who happens to find herself in a dilemma because of her complicated love life.
This adult animated film is not sexually graphic, but the words are; the lines are obscene, raining with expletives. The crude animals swear like a sailor, having been raised in an environment where some virtues seem too expensive, almost foreign, navigating a world where you toil to put food in your stomach and sacrifice for your younger siblings so they have a better chance at a good life.
Hayop Ka! nails the Filipino culture of those in the fringes of society — but it’s not meant to be seen as a social satire, but more as a material for a stand-up in a seedy comedy bar. When the film labeled itself as an adult cartoon, it meant sexual humor, violence and foul-mouthed anthropomorphic animals that would make you mute the audio in embarrassment. And the plot feels like a condensed teleserye, but too trashy to be shown on prime time. Of course, Netflix is naturally the platform for such “forbidden” content.
Absolutely beautiful animation; the attention to detail is remarkable. But the characters are drawn with “cute” in mind, and so Nimfa is far from sexy with her saucer-wide eyes inspired by Japanese cartoon.
The voice-acting from the entire cast is commendable, particularly Padilla’s Roger as the cuckolded macho askal. Panganiban, who admitted in a recent virtual press roundtable interview that she had a tough time as a voice actress, does an efficient job as the sexpot Nimfa.
Frankly, this not my type of comedy, and I wish there was more wit in the dialogue, or perhaps humor that is more universal and not designed for a certain demographic. But Hayop Ka! has achieved something never before seen in local cinema. If you’re seeing this to check out the first-rate craftsmanship in animation, you won’t be disappointed.
3 out of 5 stars