FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story’ is a Fun Telenovela Inspired Animation

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Created by Rocketship Studio in the Philippines and directed by Avid Liongoren, the independent animated film Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story is a delightful spoonful of telenovela goodness and a quirky look at the social disparity in the country.

Nimfa (voiced by Angelica Panganiban) is a working-class feline working as a perfume vendor and living with her mongrel boyfriend Roger (voiced by Robin Padilla). Her horny relationship seems to be limited by money; Nimfa pays the rent and Roger takes her to celebrate special occasions to the local street food kiosk, but they don’t aspire to do much else.

One day during work, Nimfa meets Iñigo Villanueva (voiced by Sam Milby), a wealthy and handsome entrepreneur dog who drives luxurious cars and, although he’s clearly a womanizer, he claims to be single. Nimfa is immediately charmed by the money and looks of Iñigo, who doesn’t waste time and tries to seduce her. Of course, Nimfa’s affair is challenged by the macho conduct of Roger and questioned by her best friend Jhermelyn (voiced by Arci Muñoz), who has a crush on Roger.

Cheating, love triangles, broken hearts. As you might have guessed, this plot is heavily inspired by telenovelas, which just like in Latin America, are very popular in the Philippines. Thus, Hayop Ka! pokes fun at the classic telenovela tropes and exaggerates them even more with the power of animation. 

Anime is a clear influence in the animation style, particularly during the superb fight scenes and when characters overexaggerate certain feelings or motions. In fact, the whole animation is gorgeous to look at. Rocketship Studio created a vibrant world populated by animals such as dogs, cats, octopuses, rabbits, and frogs. This anthropomorphic character design is brilliantly used to effectively catch the attention of the audience and portray the idea of animalistic appetite running wild throughout the film, which is as horny as your classic Mexican telenovela. 

Hayop Ka! has numerous animal puns (be on the lookout for some of them in the scenery) and adult comedy to keep a constant flow of raunchy fun. Your enjoyment of the film will probably rely on how much you like or dislike the comedy. However, there’s more than just jokes here; the more valuable asset on display is social satire.

The film uses the traditional telenovela storyline of forbidden love between individuals of two different social classes. Nimfa dreams of a better, more comfortable life that hopefully can have a little love too; she’s tired of cheap stew and living with the bare minimum. Meanwhile, Iñigo goes to expensive dinners and, whenever he feels like it, goes to his astonishing summer mansion to spend the night. The disparity between households and conditions is accentuated with the color palette and contrasting change of scenery. 

Nimfa’s story tries to be a glimpse of the moral and economic state of the modern working-class Filipino population. It uses their love for telenovelas and sketchy radio shows to illustrate the ways people deal and project their desires and love affairs. However, the story tends to get lost in its own telenovela satire and loses sight of the social commentary at hand. The character arc of Nimfa meanders until reaching the realization of the misogynistic world around her; the script barely reaches the finish line through an abrupt happy ending that is expanded with the aid of still images during the credits. The whole third act feels rushed, which might be a consequence of the tight budget of the studio: they financed most of the film with money from their own pockets.

The importance of Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story goes beyond horniness, silly jokes, or telenovela satire. This is an original animated feature that took years to make and is trying to open doors in the Filipino animation industry. The script is flawed and barely scratches the surface of the social struggles it sets out to explore, but you can feel the artistry brimming in every drawing, character, and pun that gives life to this film.

Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story is screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

The importance of Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story goes beyond horniness, silly jokes, or telenovela satire. This is an original animated feature that took years to make and is trying to open doors in the Filipino animation industry. The script is flawed and barely scratches the surface of the social struggles it sets out to explore, but you can feel the artistry brimming in every drawing, character, and pun that gives life to this film.