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‘Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story’ Review: Rated R for Racy
Allianza O. Pesquera | Feb 16, 2021
Exactly one hundred years since the emergence of Philippine cinema, there have been only 10 animated feature films that were ideated and produced locally. On October 29, Saving Sally director Avid Liongoren had added to this list again with the country’s 11th animation, Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story.
This independent romantic comedy movie is the first of its kind in local cinema as not only the first Filipino-made animation streaming on Netflix, but also the first animation film made for mature audiences. Hayop Ka! pushes the boundaries of the country’s conservative sensibilities with its themes such as sex and violence presented in each beautifully rendered frame.
However, despite this leap for Philippine animation, this film was the recipient of calls for a boycott due to a lead voice actor’s political affiliation. This then begs the question—should art be separated from the artist?
Heavily inspired by late-night radio dramas and teleseryes, we’ve all seen this plotline before at least once, albeit with an anthropomorphic animal society twist. The story follows Nimfa (Angelica Panganiban), a cat working as a perfume saleslady, who is caught in an illicit love affair with bourgeoisie business dog Iñigo (Sam Milby) while still in a relationship with a mongrel janitor Roger (Robin Padilla).
Nimfa is hard to love but easy to care about. She is your typical diligent working-class leading lady who sends most of her money to her family in the province to support her younger sister’s education. Doing so placed a strain on her relationship with Roger as they struggled to make ends meet. Then, after a chance encounter with a high-society husky in the department store, Nimfa is made to choose between pursuing Iñigo or staying with Roger. Inevitably, true to their animalistic natures, the characters succumbed to their base desires.
While the visuals weren’t too explicit, the animated film did deserve its adult rating as the characters frequently alluded to or spoke about sex. Aside from the obscene language and imagery, the film portrayed violence in several stylized scenes reminiscent of age-old video games. The animators also clearly had their fun in peppering every background with animal-related puns and easter eggs, such as Mall of Aso and Arowana Grande.
This adult animation is a candid portrayal of modern-day Filipinos as it depicts the good, bad, and ugly aspects of our culture. Matters of infidelity and poverty took center stage as Nimfa’s economic aspirations conflicted with Roger’s complacency, eventually leading to a fight between the two. This sequence was also reminiscent of a scene in The Hows of Us wherein Kathryn Bernardo’s character said to Daniel Padilla’s that his passion alone was not enough to feed them both.
That said, this tried and tested literary formula does not make for a very interesting plot line as the outcomes were rather predictable. And while the movie does make quick references to issues like corporate land-grabbings, police brutality, underhanded politics, contractualization, misogyny, and violence, these are hardly ever tackled by the main characters themselves nor are they ever really resolved at any point in the movie.
The 73-minute-long animated film did not make a serious attempt to become more than it appears at first glance—a teleserye spoof. Without such depth, the film makes only for a very pretty, technicolor picture that only a specific demographic could really enjoy.
On the other hand, this was Liongoren’s goal. According to him, the film was simply made to elicit laughter and to encourage the local animation industry to produce more original content rather than outsourcing their services to the rest of the world. In that regard, the film is sure to succeed.
A behind-the-scenes look
According to Liongoren, Hayop Ka! was animated and produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films, with the latter being responsible for the star-studded voice cast. As an animated film, it took four years to finish, three of which were spent on steady production. He said that a single background painting with only three seconds of screen time took about two weeks to complete, with animators working from nine to five. In this way, Netflix is the perfect platform for animations, as audiences can pause the film to truly appreciate each meticulously-crafted scene that various artists slaved over.
In coming up with the story, Liongoren said that he was inspired by late-night AM radio—specifically, the kind that faceless, love-lorn Filipinos could call to confess their love problems to the disc jockey and ask for help to resolve them at the risk of public humiliation. He explained that he was intrigued by the voices and the language used during these calls and was especially struck by the common expression, “Hayop ka.” From there, he wondered what would happen if people were actually animals and breathed life into Nimfa, Roger, and Iñigo.
With Liongoren at the helm, Manny Angeles and Paulle Olivenza wrote the screenplay and Len Calvo made the original score. Angeles said that “the creative process was continuous” and the editing process was constantly being improved. As theaters remain closed in the Philippines, he said that he was just glad their film was finally released so that audiences across Asia could stream on Netflix.
Meanwhile, lead animator Jether Amar was in charge of creating the artistic style used throughout the film. According to Amar, they envisioned what the Philippines would look like if anthropomorphic animals lived there, and in doing so, retained the grittiness of our country to stay true to our culture.
On top of their painstaking efforts to truly reflect real locales in the Philippines, the way the animation team made use of light, vibrant colors, and cute character designs to juxtapose the mature themes of the film was brilliantly done. Every warm tone and cool hue were intentionally drawn to accentuate the mood of the scene, while the main cast’s character traits were subtly highlighted by the anthropomorphic animals used to represent them. The animators were also able to showcase their creative range as they frequently flipped between artistic styles for all the passion-fuelled scenes, such as the hyperrealistic lovemaking scene between Nimfa and Iñigo and the comic-book style action sequence between Nimfa and Roger. The visual art of this film was no small feat, as Liongoren mentioned that a scene with 1,200 shots and 60 sequences took at least two months to accomplish, especially since no more than five animators would work on the film at the same time.
Their collective efforts were nearly wasted as netizens called to boycott the film. Notably, the main cast included Padilla, a known Duterte supporter, who recently made headlines when he voiced his support for the pardon of murderer Joseph Pemberton. In response, various animators took to social media to say that Padilla does not represent the movie as a whole and that the artists behind the animation should be supported instead, as they are the true stars.
Nevertheless, the voice actors all did a commendable job in performing the script. Additionally, despite Panganiban’s confession that she found it challenging to act without facial expressions, her work as Nimfa is remarkable and deserves praise as well.
The other talented actors who voiced the characters of the film include Empoy Marquez as Jerry, Arci Muñoz as Jhercelyn, Yeng Constantino as Linda, Piolo Pascual as Papa Jorge, and Madeline Humphries as Marie.
Ultimately, the decision to watch this film is up to you. That being said, if you’re interested in vulgar humor, love triangles, and supporting the local animation industry, then Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story is just the movie for you. While the movie is no deep social commentary like the renowned animated Netflix series BoJack Horseman, Hayop Ka! is an authentic Filipino experience wrapped up in a beautifully animated film and was a surefire way to end your less than stellar year on a happy note.
Art by Justin Dhaniel Tan
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