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Movie review: 'Hayop Ka!' (2020)

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Hayop Ka! ("You Animal!") is an adult 2D animated film from the Philippines, in which all the characters are anthropomorphic animals. Released in 2020, it was directed by Avid Liongoren, who co-wrote it along with Manny Angeles and Paulle Olivenza, and was produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films.

The story revolves around a cat named Nimfa (played by Angelica Panganiban), who works at a perfume counter in a department store in the city of Manila. She's been living with her boyfriend for over a year, a large, burly mongrel named Roger (played by Robin Padilla) who works as a janitor. She has doubts about their long-term prospects, so when she meets Inigo, a rich, tycoon husky (played by Sam Milby), a love triangle quickly develops. This is a very adult movie! All three want to have an active sexual life, with varying degrees of commitment.

Although this film isn't visually explicit or porny, its dialog is loaded with sexual come-ons, and it's not shying away from what the characters want. The plot is somewhat predictable; Nimfa's situation has a little depth to it, if only in the service of creating a melodrama. It's definitely inspired by both radio plays and Filipino teleseryes. And at 72 minutes, it's pretty short, so if you don't mind mature, soap-opera fluff, go for it! Just a warning, there's one direct sex scene. The warning isn't for the sex (which focuses on the facial expressions), it's for the art style, which undergoes a weird, abrupt shift, thankfully brief.

Roger and Nimfa.Speaking of the 2D art and animation, it's pleasantly cartoony and expressive. The whole thing is so colorful! And very anthropomorphic; mostly mammals, with the occasional bird, reptile, amphibian, and even the occasional sea creature. I'm pretty sure there's a whole level of extra humor I'm missing because I'm not familiar with Filipino products, brands and tagalog puns. Coincidentally, there's a high Filipino population where I live, even a grocery store that's a 15-minute walk away. But given the mature content of the film, and that its earlier working title was You Son Of A Bitch, I thought it prudent not to walk in and start randomly asking about it.

Something that impressed me about this film, is that if you freeze-frame it almost anywhere, the chances are pretty good there'll be extra little details in the background. Buildings, bushes and everyday objects have been adorned with little cat ears, dog bones or paw prints. Signs on the wall have English animal word play. You can tell the artists and animators were allowed to be creative; a lot of love was put into this.

 

In this shot, there are cat ears on the coat hangers, purses and signs.

I should mention that all three of the main characters have flaws to varying degrees; that's part of the soap opera formula. Nimfa in particular is bound to create a range of opinions in the audience. The film also shows different ends of economic disparity, while avoiding getting political about it - it's more of a passive acknowledgment that it exists. And towards the end you start to see some distinct anime influences; it's a welcome, silly jolt as the drama starts to get a bit heavier.

Would I recommend this film? Sure, if you don't mind soap operas! Currently it's available on Netflix (U.S.), in tagalog with English subtitles. Also, stay for the credits, there's a montage that gives some extra closure. I'd avoid the trailer though, as it spoils a couple of scenes. IMDB users rate it a 6.9 out of 10.

Nimfa and Inigo.

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