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An Earful: Disappearance, deception and alternate reality in "Rabbits"

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Public Radio Alliance

Before television swept the world into the visual age, people around the globe depended on radios for their daily dose of home entertainment and news.  From stories about events happening half a world away to music from popular musicians — listeners young and old gathered around radios.

The world is a bit different today, and while the medium is far from obsolete, radio shows like “The Abbott and Costello Show” or CBS’ “Radio Mystery Theater” aren’t typically found on the airwaves these days.

However, the world of podcasting has filled that gap and has taken the world by storm. Smartphone apps like Podcasts by Apple, Stitcher Radio, Podbean and more allow anyone with a smart device to choose from thousands upon thousands of free programs from every genre under the sun.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the incredible amount of content at one’s fingertips, so here’s some help in deciding what’s worth a listen.

While a large percentage of podcasts are non-fiction, there is a treasure trove of fictional listening out there. One of those gems is “Rabbits."

“Rabbits” is a story about a journalist’s search for her missing best friend and the frightening alternate reality game that ties into her disappearance. The main character Carly Parker is tired of police ignoring her concerns about her best friend Yumiko, and decides to do some digging herself — but she quickly gets wrapped up in the strange and complicated ARG known only as Rabbits.

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Produced by the Public Radio Alliance and Minnow Beats Whale, “Rabbits” premiered on Feb. 28 of this year and finished its first season on July 4. While it is a fictional show, the creators never outright address it as such, allowing listeners to fully immerse themselves in the story and question where exactly the line is between reality and fiction.

The show gained popularity quickly, acquiring new listeners through other related programs “Tanis” and “The Black Tapes." It was clear by the first couple of episodes, however, that these fans weren’t just sticking around because of the production house.

“Rabbits” has an exceptional voice cast. Carly Parker is an adept narrator and the listener quickly becomes enamored with her and her dedication to finding her friend. She’s a classic protagonist facing incredible odds and is a joy to root for throughout her journey.

Much of the supporting voice cast holds its own alongside Parker, adding intriguing characters to the story.  

“Rabbits” also has a strong soundtrack. The podcast's use of the same tracks throughout the season can become a bit repetitive, but the overall tone is consistent and compliments the plot's eerie tone.

Weaving a narrative through an audio-only medium is not an easy task. Many have tried and failed to create a captivating podcast that gives enough context for the reader to create a visual in their mind. “Rabbits” does not have this issue.

By the end of the first episode, the mysteries of Yumiko’s disappearance and the Rabbits game itself hooks the listener and inspires curiosity. One comes back wanting answers, and while some questions do offer solutions, for a while questions are forming faster than answers are being found.

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It’s a vicious and genius cycle that intrigues the listener and catches them in the best way possible; it makes the audience want to find Parker and assist her on her search. “Rabbits” asks its listeners to think, play along, and be a little frightened and confused every so often.

Of course, it isn’t perfect.  There are a handful of voice actors that leave something to be desired, although most are one-off characters.  The first couple episodes also contain a good amount of exposition, as is necessary with a story that has such a complicated game integrated into it. Once a listener gets through the exposition and slightly confusing explanation of ARG, the podcast is a pure treasure. With season one ready for listening and season two in the works, there’s only one question left unanswered: "r u playing?"


Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.



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