Rating: 4 out of 5.

Acting as my first review for 2021’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story (coming to Netflix later this year under the translated title, You Animal!) could not have been a better table-setter. A saucy and deeply horny animated love story that is decidedly not for younger viewers, this film took over three years to make—the passion for the material is evident in the final product. Hayop Ka! purrs with originality and hilariously bizarre hijinks. 

Nimfa Dimaano (Angelica Panganiban), the titular lead character, is a perfume sales kitty who lives paycheck to paycheck. Hayop Ka! opens with Nimfa making a visit to a fortune teller, in the hopes that she is on the cusp of something great. Nimfa is informed most ominously that she will “fall in love with two men at the time time.” But that is not all—her tarot cards are a wild boar and waterfalls, indicating she should “get ready for a wild sex ride.” 

Both of these predictions turn out to be explosively true. Nimfa’s boyfriend Roger (Robin Padilla) is a buff janitor dog with a heightened sexual appetite, yet Nimfa is not satisfied. For every birthday, Christmas, and anniversary, Roger can only afford to treat Nimfa to the same crummy beef stew joint. In fact, he even proposed to her there! Roger shows himself to be fiercely defensive, coming to her rescue when a group of pigs cross the line into inappropriate. “Just what you need: a beating with my jumbo hot dog,” Roger tells them as he pummels the pigs senseless. Is his love for her enough for Nimfa to settle?

By some twist of fate, a suave filthy rich dog named Inigo (Sam Milby) comes to buy an expensive gift at Nimfa’s store. Swooning in ecstasy, Nimfa accidentally sends Inigo home with the wrong cologne, prompting them to meet up to rectify the situation. Before long, Inigo is asking Nimfa to accompany him in the Batangas to visit one of his properties. The lure of Inigo’s money and charisma is nearly too much for Nimfa to bear. When she tastes his sour soup, Nimfa reacts as if having an orgasm. It appears to put her in some kind of horny trance, which prompts Nimfa to proclaim to Inigo: “Sir, can I play with your sacks, your cojones, your jewels?” Nimfa is sucked into Inigo’s wealth and beauty. Suffice to say, their relationship becomes complicated very quickly, despite Nimfa still being in a relationship with Roger. 

Hayop Ka!, on a surface level, reminded me of another excellent adult-comedy show in both animation style and in its depiction of an animal-dominated world: Netflix’s Bojack Horseman. There is more here than just vulgar comedy, with commentary on class, pregnancy, and relationships coating it with a sheen of maturity. There was always a clever pun or a play on words in real-world brands. Revlion, a take on makeup brand Revlon, and a discount DVD titled Sleepless in a Beagle (complete with a mock cover that parodies the Tom Hanks film Sleepless in Seattle) were just a couple of my favorites.

The title itself should clue in the viewer as to the tone of Hayop Ka! If they are submerged in Manila culture: it literally translates to “you animal” as well as “you son of a bitch”. It is often used in soap opera confrontations. The production team, Rocketsheep Studio from The Philippines, funded Hayop Ka! out of their own pockets. The animation style changes several times, keeping moments like a big sex scene, as well as an intense battle, stimulating and hilarious. Heavily inspired by telenovelas and sleazy late-night talk-shows, the script plays up the situational humor, overloads on the profane sex talk, and creates a movie worth remembering. An unexpected ending favors self-love and identity, and the end credits montage provides a lovely conclusion for Nimfa’s story arc. I loved this kooky and strange cat-dog rom-com!

Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story screened at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. It releases as You Animal! exclusively to Netflix on October 29th.

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