Growing up, one would often have fond memories of waking up to the sight of cartoon characters and their wacky antics. However, after some years, the magic of cartoons might fizzle out into mild annoyance—cartoons are for kids and you are now an adult. But not with this film; move over Mickey Mouse, there’s a new anthropomorphic animal in town, and her name’s Nimfa Dimaano. With three long years in the making, the first animated Filipino Netflix film, Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story, makes its debut by taking viewers to a Zootopia-like Philippines, promising a wild ride for hopeless romantics choosing to believe in a love that overcomes all.
Though cute and cuddly on the surface, Strong Parental Guidance warnings will remind you that this film isn’t for kids. Raw, real, and overtly raunchy, the film dives into the realities of fulfilling desires; like the famous Filipino saying, “Mapapakain ba ako ng pagmamahal mo?”
(Can your love feed me?)
Lost in pares
Hayop Ka! centers on the life of Nimfa Dimaano, an anthropomorphic cat who sells perfume with her bunny best friend, Jhemerlyn. Nimfa wants it all—money, love, and a lot of sex. She gets her wish in the form of a whirlwind romance between two dogs: Roger, Nimfa’s boyfriend, and Iñigo, a well-off businessman. This push and pull between her two beaus is a wacky rollercoaster ride, heavily reminiscent of popular Filipino teleseryes.
The plot, though complexing at first, worked in its entirety. It brilliantly portrays mundane life in a world of zaniness, making this film a relatable, comedic gem. Borrowing tropes from teleseryes—such as infidelity, having violent fistfights, and the characters being whisked away to the province for a break from city life woes—made the film more familiar to viewers, despite the Western animation style.
However, the extreme escalation of its plot during the last 10 minutes fell flat. It was hard to keep track of the many things happening, with its brief 73-minute runtime struggling to tie all the loose ends. Though abrupt, the film’s ending was luckily saved with a heartwarming conclusion.
Setting the tone
The animators have built a charming animated version of the Philippines, capturing the hustle and bustle of the city, portraying the traffic of EDSA, and even diving into the run-down shanty areas of Manila in detail. Seasoned with countless pop culture references, it connects the viewers to the world of Nimfa, using famous landmarks like Mall Of Aso, a pun on the famous SM mall, Ang Purrbinsyano from the famous teleserye FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, and many more hidden jokes waiting to be recognized in the background.
There are also a lot of clever details in the animation that are also worth the rewatch to find. Most might miss small easter eggs like the use of Baybayin in some store logos, and even in Iñigo’s phone brand, Samlby, a nod to the character’s voice actor. There are small references to director Avid Liongoren’s previous film, Saving Sally. And if you pay enough attention, you might even find a Rare Pepe meme
Since the film is heavily inspired by its dramatic themes, the characters saying cliche one liners like “Tikman ‘nyo ‘tong hotdog ko!”, “I am not a copycat!” and especially, “Hayop ka!” may feel overused. But the freedom of animation accompanying these lines upgrades the dialogue to a higher level of intensity.
(Have a taste of my hotdog!)
(You’re an animal!)
Getting into character
The beautiful animation is also brought to life by the dynamic voice actors. Angelica Panganiban’s chaotic energy fits Nimfa Dimaano perfectly; her ability to smoothly transition from flirty to cantankerous demonstrates her range wonderfully. Witty, sarcastic, and full of charm, Nimfa delivers some of the film’s best lines, and her feisty character will go down in the history books.
Sam Milby and Robin Padilla also bring their voice acting chops to the table with their exceptional portrayal of Iñigo and Roger respectively. One is a rich, suave husky and the other is down-to-earth askal oozing with machismo—the stark contrast of the two representing Nimfa’s indecisiveness in choosing between a life full of riches or staying in the slums. Both actors inject their roles with their own unique spin, making the threesome’s energy even more palpable.
The valet frog Jerry, voiced by Empoy Marquez, steals the second half of the film with his lighthearted banter and wholesome story, which alludes to his real-life roles as the underdog. Rounding out the film’s comedic cast are the likes of Moira Dela Torre, Eugene Domingo, Yeng Constantino, and Piolo Pascual, voicing minor characters who briefly appear throughout the film.
The first of its kind
Before its release, the film encountered its fair share of challenges, with some netizens ordering a boycott of the film because of a controversial casting decision and critics being doubtful of the film’s message or lack of advocacy.
Liongoren mentioned in an interview though, that the purpose of the film was simply to entertain. And although it was not intended to have a deeper message, launching the film is an advocacy in itself—to open a gateway in appreciating the local animation industry.
Overall, the solid plotline, creative animation, and talented cast make for a timeless romantic slapstick. Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story is undoubtedly a milestone project that can pave the way for the future of the Filipino animation industry. Hopefully, it can also encourage the Filipino audience to pour in more support for smalltime animators trying to make it to the big screen.