Follow TV Tropes


Ninja Prop

Go To

There are certain things we're used to seeing in certain media, but accept as artefacts of the medium: speech bubbles, captions, and frames in comics, wires that make people "fly" in shows, status bars and inventories in video games, and stage hands that move Props and sets around in theater.

A character who has Medium Awareness also knows about those things. This trope is when they interact with some part of the setting that is conventionally treated as "not really there" or when a part of the setting stops being just a prop and suddenly acts on its own.

Stage hands is where the trope gets its name. The classic outfit associated with Ninja (black, tight suit and a mask with a slit for the eyes) actually comes from stage hands in Japanese theater. They wore black so that the audience knew to ignore them. Plays eventually began using them as ninja to represent their apparent ability to appear and disappear out of nowhere. (The variety of stagehand in live performing arts who handle props and setpieces on, off, and around the stage in Western theatre are colloquially referred to as "stage ninjas" due to their all-black clothing and stealthy profession, so the term has fed back into itself.) Imagine the shock of the audience, then, when the non-entity setting the castle walls in place for scene 4 suddenly pulls out a dagger and kills one of the characters.

Characters with Medium Awareness may do this intentionally as a means of Exploiting the Fourth Wall.

Perception Filter may be an in-universe related trope. A subtrope of Metafictional Device. In video games, Interface Screw may qualify as a Ninja Prop, especially when the game simulates effects from external sources/other programs. In Comics, Frame Break is the most common form of this trope. A Harsh Word Impact may also be this.

Compare Diegetic Visual Effects, when the metafictional "prop" or effect is not actually metafictional at all, but an actual part of the in-universe setting that everyone can see and interact with (not just the Medium Awareness character).

The Butler Did It is broadly similar. It was a shocking twist because he would be there serving the characters the whole time without being one of them; his being part of the story is like discovering that the table was the murderer.


    open/close all folders 

  • In this DVLA PIF about road taxes, Lady Penelope discovers that Parker got FAB 1 clamped due to forgetting to pay the roadcheck. She responds by cutting his strings.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one chapter of Doctor Slump, Akane yells at a passing idiot crow making fun of her, then uses the giant exclamation point produced by her shouting to swat the bird away.
  • Gintama Episode 267: Since Odd Jobs Gin is frozen in time and any changes they make to reality result in causality getting her ass raped by comedy, Gin decides to deal with Otae getting hit by a rocket arm by changing the SFX involved with a marker; first by making her "Ouch" into an "owie" and then by turning the SFX into a sentient being, "Ham-Chan". Naturally, this is lampshaded by Shinpachi, then Ham gets married to an amnesiac Otae (while Kyubei runs off with a crudely-drawn dick made out of the SFX spare parts from Ham attached to her crotch), then Otose shatters the nigh-indestructible rocket arm with her bare fist, and finally Ham saves the day just after the time travel batteries run out and freeze Odd Jobs Gin as well, as Ham is unaffected by the freeze.
  • In one episode of Hetalia: Axis Powers, England is giving Russia a Death Glare, complete with several arrows. The next time the camera pans back to Russia, Russia is eating the arrows.
  • In Kill la Kill, Nui Harime has this ability. Each character gets an introductory subtitle in massive red block characters, and Nui leans against hers as if it were an object. In a Split Screen, she reaches across the divider to caress Satsuki's hair. In a later episode, Nui's subtitles cast shadows on the ground. A case of Beware the Silly Ones, since her screwball antics make it immediately clear that she is a Spanner in the Works of Satsuki's plans.
  • In Ranma ˝, Konatsu, a ninja, can hide behind or hang from other people's speech bubbles.
  • In one episode of Slayers, Lina sweatdrops, then grabs the sweatdrop and hits Gourry over the head with it.
  • The sun and moon from Soul Eater being oddly shaped and having faces initially seems like stylization, but in the manga, the characters go to the moon, which is actually shaped like that (it even has nostril caves!) and turns out to be much smaller than the real-world moon and located in the upper atmosphere (assuming this world even has an atmosphere). This was actually shown earlier a couple times, but in an incredibly off-hand manner: the first time we see Maka's father trying to spend time with her he mentions how the sun setting looks tired, then realizes it's a stupid thing to have a conversation about. Crona also comments on the sun sleeping in their Mental World.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix, there are two albums where the village's bard is sweeping musical notes with a broom as if they were dust.
  • Cinema Purgatorio:
    • In The Picture Palace Mystery, it's heavily implied that Mr. Crawley, the projectionist suspected of messing with the film reels in Aunt Millie's theater, is also responsible for the actual film messing up as well. When a centipede-like monster attacks the protagonists, it's always shown occupying the same spot as if it was a stray hair on a projector gate, and when the film starts to burn, the in-universe ground and anyone unlucky enough to be in the same spot dissolves with it.
    • In It's a Breakable Life, what at first appears to be an Obvious Stunt Double replacing George Bailey in an action scene is immediately revealed to be George physically swapping out with another person for the stunt, with him unaware of the time between. After a series of increasingly dangerous accidents keeps swapping him out with more stuntmen, one pulls him aside to explain why he's protected from harm, while teaching him the dangers stuntmen face while filming. All George seems to take from this is that he can't die, and he immediately uses this ability to make a stuntman tank a gunshot for him while he rushes down Mr. Potter.
  • In an Italian Donald Duck comic, the scholars of ancient Babylon create a machine which amplifies a person's ability to think. This reaches a point where lightbulbs physically manifest above their heads when they have an idea. And then fall down to the ground.
  • Occasionally happened during John Byrne's run on She-Hulk. At one point, Jennifer foils a villain's attempt to leave her and some civilians Trapped in TV Land by remembering that she's really in a comic book, ripping a (notional) hole into the page, and escaping alongside her charges across a two-page ad spread back to their "real" world.
  • Used with some frequency in Suske en Wiske: the characters aren't above using panel lines and speech bubbles to improvise an attack strategy.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool:
    • Gwen speaks in pink speech bubbles, an homage to her inspiration Deadpool, who speaks in yellow. When Gwen consults Doctor Strange, he grabs one of her speech bubbles and shows it to her, explaining that the coloration is a sort of "cosmic accent" indicating that she's from a different universe.
    • In the arc where some powers (using her brother as proxy) try to get Gwen back into her own world, the narrative conspires to lead her back into the Marvel universe, including showing her the "strings" (thought captions, title, the end / to be continued... text whatnot), making them real and letting her interact even with stuff like borders and such if she can correctly guess where there. Once she returns to the main Marvel universe, she's also shown the ability to hide behind panels. Gwen decides to use this ability to leave the panels to her advantage; for instance, leaving a prison by going back to a previous page. She also pushes villains out of the panels and into the Blank White Void that is the gutter space.
    • A villainous future Gwen abused these powers of messing with the page features even further, to the point she was a Reality Warper. For instance, once a character has a flashback about future Gwen depicting her as a huge Evil Overlooker, she takes the physical form from said flashback.
  • The French-Belgian comic Imbattable uses this ability (and having the associated Medium Awareness) as in-universe superpowers. The protagonist is a superhero able to travel and interact across the panels of the comic (other characters, lacking his Medium Awareness, view him as teleporting, time travelling, duplicating himself...). Other characters include an old man whose speech balloons can affect the physical words (to other characters, it looks like telekinesis), an aspiring superhero who can play with perspective, or a villain who can traverse book pages.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield strip, Jon sees Garfield asleep with a "Z" bubble over his head, and remarks that he feels safer when Garfield's asleep. The "Z" bubble then hits him in the head.
  • Older Than They Think: In a 1907 Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip, the hungry characters tear up the strip's title to eat the letters, which are apparently very nutritious.
  • Peanuts:
    • A cartoon in Here Comes Snoopy has Snoopy sleeping in a sitting position, complete with Z balloon. As his head started slumping, the Z balloon got tilted on its side.
    • In a cartoon from We Love You, Snoopy, after Schroeder finishes playing the piano and walks off, Snoopy decides to play it himself. Instead of musical notes, the staff overhead is filled with paw prints.
    • One strip shows Snoopy sleeping on an empty music staff as Schroeder prepares to practice. Schroeder strikes a powerful opening chord, which sends Snoopy flying.
    • Snoopy once tosses and turns on his doghouse as the alphabet runs by, until he reaches "Z" and is asleep.
    • Peppermint Patty sleeps through math class and has a Z math nightmare. √Z finally wakes her.
  • A The Wizard of Id strip has a guard in a tower with a Z over his head. The invaders report that the guard is asleep, and go to attack. Cut to the tower, where the guard is holding up a fake speech bubble with a Z on it.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the LEGO Ninjago short "The Master", the brick-built Warner Bros. shield that appears at the beginning actually exists in the world, and at one point the characters actually fight on it. By the end of the short it's become so battered that it's barely hanging on a thread.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Loaded Weapon 1:
    • In an early scene, Whoopi Goldberg's character glances at a subtitle onscreen to verify the current time.
    • During the climax, Colt sneaks into the villain warehouse and two German, Nazi-esque guards exchange small talk, complete with subtitles. However, after they leave the scene, the subtitles remain, and Colt trips on them like they're part of the scenery.
  • This is something of a trademark of Mel Brooks, as he uses it in many of his movies:
    • Spaceballs:
      • After having performed an Indy Hat Roll, the heroes find themselves surrounded by Spaceball guards. Then an officer comes to gloat, but he realizes with dismay that the guards have instead captured their stunt doubles.
      • In order to track down the heroes, Dark Helmet decides to consult the movie's VHS tape. It eventually points him to the right planet, but not before a highly confusing scene where the recording plays back the scene where Dark Helmet consults the tape.
      • During the fight between Lone Star and Dark Helmet, Helmet swings his Schwartz back and hits a member of the movie crew.
    • In the climactic duel of Robin Hood: Men in Tights between Robin and the Sheriff, at one point Robin misses a thrust and goes through a "tower window", which accidentally skewers a stage-hand's hotdog. He awkwardly apologizes and returns it, and the fight continues as if nothing happened. An earlier scene had the camera zooming in on a window as Maid Marian is singing; cut to inside where we see her for the first time, then we hear the sound of glass breaking as the camera accidentally punches through the window. Yet another scene has Robin, having apparently lost the requisite archery tournament, realize that this doesn't make sense and he consults his copy of the film's script.
    • Also used in Blazing Saddles to spectacular effect. The epic climax eventually spills off the set into the rest of the studio where the film was being shot, with the brawl entering the set of a musical, the cafeteria (where it turns into a pie fight), the studio tour, and eventually the streets of Burbank. It culminates in Hedley Lamarr trying to escape the film by taking a taxi to the premiere of Blazing Saddles at Grauman's Chinese Theatre... only to find, while watching the film, that Bart has followed him there.
    • High Anxiety ends with the camera zooming away from the characters and out the window...or rather, through the window, which it breaks, drawing the characters' attention.
  • Another Star Wars parody, Thumb Wars has the spaceships in the Action Prologue crashing into the words of the Opening Scroll, which of course are still floating through space ahead of them.
  • While the comic it was adapted from depicted it as a genuine plot device from the start, in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott appears at first to have picked up the 1-Up life as a throw-away joke before talking to Ramona. But after being killed by Gideon, he uses it as a real extra life to come back to life. Lampshaded by his sister on the phone to their parents, discussing it in a bored and entirely mundane way like it was a gallon of milk.
  • In Austin Powers in Goldmember, when Austin Powers and Foxy Cleopatra meet with Mr. Roboto, Austin keeps misinterpreting what he's saying because his white subtitles keep getting partially obscured by white objects on his desk.
  • In the 2009 live-action Lucky Luke movie with Jean Dujardin, Luke is seen standing at the gate of a gorgeous colonial house (his friend Cooper's home) which is obviously a matte painting. Then a black servant invites Luke to follow him, and as he steps away we find out that he was already inside the house and that the painting is an in-universe artwork.
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. A very short way into the factory's tour, the group finds themselves at the end of a long hallway. Forced Perspective is a common Hollywood trick to make something appear larger than it is, and one would expect that to be in play here. It; the hallway is surprisingly short, and by the end of it Mr. Wonka has to crouch down to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling.
  • In Annihilation, the main character and the rest of her Five-Man Band cross over the border into the Shimmer, and the next thing we see is an immediate Jump Cut to her and the other women waking up in their campsite...only for the others to explain that the border crossing is the last thing they remember doing in-universe. Examining their supplies reveals that they've used up four or five days worth of provisions, as if the characters experienced the Jump Cut as skipping over four days of in-universe time in their memories.
  • In There's Nothing Out There, a character swings to safety on a microphone boom that appeared on screen 'by mistake'.
  • Happens multiple times in the horror parody The Final Girls, about a group of modern-day teenagers who get sucked into an '80s slasher flick. Slow-motion scenes cause time to physically slow down, flashbacks cause everything to turn monochrome after a mind-screwy transition effect, the title cards physically exist in-universe (and have to be stepped over), and when the movie ends, the credits start rolling in the background before the surviving characters find themselves in limbo when the last frame rolls... only to wake up in the sequel. Naturally, the modern-day protagonists are the only ones to notice any of this.
  • Played for Drama in Funny Games. Paul is Medium Aware and constantly breaks the fourth wall, and at one point he grabs a TV remote and rewinds the film so that he can stop the protagonists.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The film has a distinguished gentleman acting as narrator within the scene, as do a few historical reconstitution movies. Except said historian is suddenly beheaded by a mounted knight mid-story. Leading to the police investigating the crime, and in the end arresting the whole Arthurian cast.
  • In The Man with Two Brains Dr. Hfuhruhurr is pulled over by a policeman who speaks German to him, which is subtitled in English for viewers. When the doctor replies in English, the policeman says, "Oh, you speak English?" He turns and calls offscreen, "You can stop the subtitles, now," adding, "That's better; we have more room down there, now!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show: During one of the obligatory episode-ending chase scenes, a stray hair is seen trembling on the left side of the screen. That is, until Benny Hill suddenly calls for a stop to the chase, and then grabs said hair before tossing it away.
  • In the teaser trailer for Cowboy Bebop (2021), black bars are used to indicate Split Screen; at one point Spike grabs one of the bars and uses it as a staff to fight some mooks with.
  • Doctor Who: "Forest of the Dead" uses Jump Cuts to transition from a scene to the other (for example, the characters in a house talk about taking a stroll in the park, and we jump to the park). Quite an ordinary way of depicting the passing of time in a TV medium, right? Except Donna realizes that she isn't experiencing the time between the cuts at all, only fake memories. This is her first hint she's inside a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • The first season of The Good Place is full of tropes that can be easily overlooked as typical for a sitcom, but all of them are actually being invoked by Michael as part of his plan to torture the four humans for a thousand years. Examples include Michael's Oblivious Guilt Slinging, the Contrived Coincidences that lead to several episodes' plot-lines, the Teeth-Clenched Teamwork that the main characters keep going through, or the fact that The Main Characters Do Everything.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • Raymond Luxury-Yacht (pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove") appears in two Python sketches, played by Graham Chapman wearing a very large false nose. In both sketches, Raymond treats it as his real nose, only for the other character to pull it off and point out how ridiculous it is.
    • One sketch featured a "documentary" on the criminal Piranha brothers. One of the interviewees is Gloria, played by John Cleese. At first, the audience is led to believe that Cleese is playing a woman in the same way the cast as always played women... until Gloria says that Dinsdale Piranha "knew how to treat a female impersonator."
  • Red Dwarf: The actors playing the (seemingly cured) villains in "Cured" don't really look much like the real historical figures, most notably with Adolf Hitler who has the most screen time. The audience is just accepting this as Ability over Appearance casting - until it turns out be a plot point when it's revealed that they're actually reprogrammed android scientists.
  • This Saturday Night Live sketch starts with the new kid at school watching the cheerleader and the Big Man on Campus enter via Team Power Walk. Then a teacher clarifies that this is diegetic; they're walking through a magic hallway where everything is in slow motion.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "200", there is a segment re-imagining the pilot as a marionette show, in the style of Team America: World Police. Everything is going fine until the team go through the Stargate for the first time... at which point the wormhole closing severs their marionette strings, and they fall in a heap on the other side. It should be noted that the strings originally weren't too noticeable on screen, and had to be digitally enhanced to be more visible, in order for this gag to work.
  • The Whitest Kids U' Know frequently has the adult cast members playing young kids in an elementary school classroom, and does this often enough that viewers don't think twice about it. One sketch starts in the same way, with Trevor as a kid in a classroom talking excessively about his parents' messy divorce when asked about what he did that summer. Then the teacher asks Zach about his summer, and he says he proposed to his girlfriend because they're 23 and in law school.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Justin is sitting with his girlfriend in front of fake French scenery. Because this is what one would expect as French scenery in a low-budget show such as this, this seems completely natural... until it is revealed that this actually is a fake French scenery in-story that Justin set up in the sub shop.

    Music Videos 
  • The Broder Daniel music video for "I'll Be Gone" features the band performing the song in front of a background displaying their name. At the very end, they grab the letters, swinging and smashing them all over the place.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In one of the Swedish Chef sketches on The Muppet Show, the Chef is trying to get his chicken to lay an egg. After it looks like she has, he angrily declares that the object is not an egg but a ping-pong ball. The humor is, of course, that the audience would expect the ball to double for an egg in the sketch, making it surprising when the Chef refers to what it really is.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Sentinels of the Multiverse, one of Guise's cards has him hitting Wager Master with the card's keyword bar. Given that Guise is a Expy of Deadpool, this is likely inspired by his hyper combo in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. His cards also have aspects like high-fiving another player to gain an ability, and another lets you play an additional card if you throw your hands into the air and yell, "Woo!"
  • In the day's of its Early-Installment Weirdness, Magic: The Gathering had the card Chaos Orb, and a couple of other cards like it. Normally, the cards themselves are treated as representations of what they depict. Not so with Chaos Orb, which you drop from over the table and it destroys whatever card it is physically touching.

  • The narrator in Into the Woods. Counts as a prop because he's forcibly pulled out of his narrator role and used as a prop, that is, the characters sacrifice him to an enraged giant.
  • The Pirates of Penzance:
    • In some productions, there is a part where the Pirate King engages in a sword fight with the baton-wielding conductor of the orchestra. This was originally improvised by John Clark, the actor who originated the role on Broadway.
    • In another variation, one of Mabel's ridiculously long runs of very high notes leads to a showdown with the flute player, which finally ends with a white flag of surrender sticking up out of the orchestra pit.
  • The Mystery of Irma Vep does this with its use of Acting for Two, as two actors portray a total of seven characters in the play. There are only five characters. Two of them are other characters in disguise.
  • The one-act play The Problem by A. R. Gurney has an actress enter with what is clearly a balloon under her shirt and start talking about her pregnancy. The reaction of her husband substantiates the fact that she really is pregnant, and the next 10 minutes are all about figuring out if he's the father. It isn't until the end that it's revealed that it actually is just a balloon, and the entire play was just foreplay between the two.
  • In the musical adaptation of the autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, there are usually two versions of Alison Bechdel on stage at any time: the adult version who is narrating her memories, and the "actual" Alison at that point in time, whether as a child, teenager, or college student. The narrator Alison never interacts with the "memories"—until close to the very end, when her college-age self can't bring herself to have a deep conversation with her father, so narrator-Alison impulsively jumps in. She's treated as the "real" Alison by everyone in the "memory" at that point, and gets to have a duet with her father, who died a short time after the memory takes place.

    Video Games 
  • Infamously used in I Wanna Be the Guy when obvious parts of the background, such as the Moon and a fake Windows error message, directly attack the Kid. As does a save point.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has a horribly surreal moment after the characters leave reality: the first thing you see when you get back to your feet is a save point, which multiplies as you step on it. Doesn't do anything else, it's just Mind Screw.
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • One of the enemies you can face in Magus's castle are fake save points.
    • At one point in the Bad Future, you can try to sneak past a couple of monsters as long as you don't make any noise. The chime from touching the save point will wake them up.
  • The original Battletoads has Space Invader expies who don't attack your toad directly, but instead fly up to the HUD and steal blocks from their life meter.
  • Deadpool in general will likely do something of this nature anytime he shows up in a video game; it's kinda his shtick.
  • Donkey Kong Land: One level has a point where the K-O-N-G letters you've collected earlier in the level descend on screen and form a bridge for you to cross.
  • In Syobon Action, some clouds come to life and kill you if you happen to jump into them.
  • In M.U.G.E.N, Light Yagami reads his opponent's life bar to see what their name is so he can write it in his Death Note.
  • Metal Gear:
    • During the fight with Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, he uses the controller against the player, by reading your inputs to dodge your attacks. You've got to switch it to the second controller slot on the console to hit him.
    • While hunting for C4 in the Big Shell early in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, calling Pliskin for advice may have him tell you that he only found one by taking a close look in first-person view - the implication being that the third-person, top-down view you normally view the games in is how player characters in the series actually see the world.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum features a vicious Interface Screw where the Scarecrow's Fear Gas causes the game to apparently crash and restart, complete with graphics glitches that make the player worry the game's burned out their graphics card.
  • The Humbug series has this as a major element of gameplay, along with cheating. Examples include standing on the "You Have Died" message boxes, manipulating background scenery, and taking things from posters.
  • P.T.:
    • At the game's start, You Wake Up in a Room that's mostly dark and hear strange vaguely-philosophical rambling, and you're left to assume it was the Player Character's internal narration. Once you get a flashlight and go back to the room, shining a light on the darkened corner shows it was actually coming from an in-world source — specifically, a bloody paper bag.
    • In a section where you are searching for pieces of a missing picture, one piece is hidden in the menu screen.
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number features one of these during The Son's hallucinogenic rampage at the end of the game, where his portrait suddenly opens wide and inhales his own overhead sprite to take him to the next part of the level.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X allows you to create your own player character - an unusual feature for a JRPG, but certainly not unheard of. Then in Chapter 5, it's revealed that your body is actually a robotic puppet you're controlling from stasis, and that it was designed according to your specifications and doesn't necessarily resemble your real body.
  • Xenogears: The save points are actually surveillance devices that the Solaris authorities use to watch over the ground population. Because you keep saving your game, The Empire and the Big Bad can keep tabs on you and know everything about you.
  • Last Scenario features a Bonus Dungeon full of save point mimics.
  • Undertale:
    • Just to drive the point home that you're in a fight to the death with no escape and no mercy, Asgore destroys the "Mercy" button that you use to flee the battle or try to spare the enemy. Fortunately, it's still possible to spare him like every other enemy in the game—in fact, when you get the option to spare him, the Mercy button looks like it's been hastily patched back together.
    • One of the dungeons of the game contains a myriad of shapeshifting monsters, two of which disguise themselves as a emoticon bubble and a save point. The very act of saving also becomes an important plot point, as it's revealed that Flowey also possessed the ability to save, before you arrived on the scene and your ability to save overrode his. Once he goes One-Winged Angel, he takes advantage of his power by crashing the game. Then, when you reopen the game, he smashes through your save file so he can make you watch him kill you over and over again, and abuses Save Scumming during the actual battle (meanwhile the "Fight" and "Act" menu buttons now become physical objects that the player has to move over and interact with to use.
    • The already clever Sans, the Final Boss of the Genocide route, also takes advantage of this. Since your menu icon is the same icon as the heart that represents your player's Soul (your hitbox during the Bullet Hell segments), he takes the opportunity to start attacking your cursor in-between rounds, which has the same effect as getting attacked normally. His "special attack" also takes advantage of the turn-based nature of the game's combat, as he simply refuses to end his turn in the hopes that the player will give up and quit. The player then has to take advantage of this trope themselves by dragging the square field their soul resides in during combat over to the Fight button and selecting it to finish him off.
    • At one point, Mettaton traps the player in a room full of bombs disguised as all kinds of innocuous objects (such as a movie script, a glass of water, a basketball and a dog). As he lists off all the objects that are actually bombs, he ends with "EVEN MY WORDS ARE...!" before the text suddenly falls out of his text box and explodes.
  • Some versions of Ace Of Spades, pre-Jagex buyout, had a Capture the Flag mode with "Intel" represented on the minimap by a team-coloured symbol that looked vaguely like the logo for Wi-Fi. But the minimap also accurately reflected the colours of the terrain, and since everything was Built with LEGO it was possible to arrange a couple of dozen blocks of approximately the right colour on the ground to confuse the opposing team. This tactic was controversial but quite popular until an update added an arrow that would always point towards the real intel.
  • In Super Mario RPG, the boss Bowyer summons replicas of the gamepad's A, X, and Y buttons, and when he shoots one it becomes disabled, preventing you from making use of the button during the fight.
  • NieR: Automata: The menu tutorial turns out to be a Justified Tutorial where 2B has come online from a Body Backup Drive, and 9S is guiding her through the Diegetic Interface. What appears to be unvoiced text from nowhere is actually 9S speaking to 2B, who starts with vocal recognition (i.e. voice volume) set to zero. This further implies that the subtitles also appear in-universe.
  • The Final Boss of 20XX begins his boss battle by destroying his own health bar so the player can't tell how much HP he has.
  • The Final Boss of Lethal League's single player mode, Doombox, turns out to be the boombox at the bottom of your HUD that gauges the ball speed and the time until the ball starts moving after you hit it.
  • Kirby:
    • At one point in the final levels of Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Kirby encounters the game's first boss, Flowery Woods, a third time. However, he has Hypernova, and thus simply begins sucking Flowery Woods up, taking the boss' health bar in the process before inhaling Flowery Woods in its entirety. He does this again at the end of the final boss fight. There are also the axes in the background of the Masked Dedede fight. One of them gets grabbed by his Revenge form in the second phase, and he promptly destroys the other three immediately after.
    • While doors are usually symbolic objects in the series, there are some cases where they're treated as physical entities that Kirby needs to interact with in some way to proceed, particularly in Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot. For instance, in one stage of Royal Road of Triple Deluxe, Kirby "sucks up" the stage exit in a forceful inhale, and spits it back out to end the stage; in another stage of Overload Ocean in Planet Robobot, Kirby "builds" the exit by carving it out of rock.
    • The traditional way of fighting King Dedede is to wait for him to pound the ground with either his hammer or his body, making star-shaped Circling Birdies, and then have Kirby suck up those stars and spit them out.
    • The Boss Subtitles in Kirby and the Forgotten Land are physical models in the environment, which cast shadows and move in 3D space accordingly, though they are never directly interacted with.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Beyond Time and Space reveals in its final episode that the bleeping out of swear words that's been happening throughout the season (and a few times in Save the World) is happening in-universe in Hell's FCC department. It then plays an important role later on — the duo need to figure out the name of one of the game's villains, but they can't hear it because it keeps getting bleeped out — so Sam replaces Hell's list of swear words with a grocery list. Doing so also reveals that the game's Hollywood Tourette's character was speaking in much milder language than the game initially implied, and that their health started to improve after the constant ringing in their ear stopped.
  • This is a big part of the gameplay of There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension, with several puzzles involving messing with interface elements. This is particularly apparent in the middle sections of the game in which you end up in the world of a point-and-click adventure game, followed by an action-adventure game, in which you have no control over the game characters and instead must assist them through the game by affecting the interface.
  • Minor NPCs in Shin Megami Tensei V have detailed clothes but no faces, which appears to be a stylistic choice to save on animation until a third-year high school student points out that her teachers and some classmates have indistinct faces. Eighteen years ago, Tokyo was destroyed, but divine intervention restored the city and its people. The miracle is fading by the start of the game, and everyone who was recreated is fading with it.
  • Pizza Tower features a large television in its upper right corner which shows a number of humorous animations depending on the current state of the playable character (for example, while riding a Weenie Mount, the TV shows Peppino hanging on to a sausage while dressed as a cowboy). This TV proves to be more than just a HUD element near the game's end:
    • During the second phase of the final boss, the TV can be grabbed from off-screen (as the TV doesn't appear during boss fights) to be thrown as a gigantic bouncing hazard, with Peppino's panicked face on the screen.trivia 
    • Also during the final boss's second phase, various TVs float through the background, depicting the newly-revealed Pizzahead on their screens, alluding to his role as a Rogue Protagonist from the game's fictional predecessor, Pizza Boy Tower.
    • On the title card for the game's final level, a large number of enemies can be seen battered and bruised; among them is the giant TV, with the Peppino face on its screen also looking beat up, and elsewhere in the pile is a small robed figure with a mask that otherwise only appears on the game's HUD as a timer for your combo meter.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ever17: You don't see the face of the main character, nor do you hear his voice. It's okay, many Visual Novels are like that... Then comes The Reveal.
  • Virtue's Last Reward: The player only sees Sigma's real face in flashbacks and never hears his voice, hiding his true present-day identity from the player and from himself.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, but only in the original Nintendo DS version of the game, as it's unable to be replicated by anything else. The top screen, where character sprites and dialogue are, represents the present, and the bottom screen, where the narrative is, represents the past. The game is Akane watching the present from the past to save herself from a situation she can't handle herself, and when you get to where she's stuck at in the present, you flip the DS upside down so that you can solve the puzzle in the present so she can see the answer in the past.
  • Muv-Luv Alternative has only one route, unlike the other two entries in the series and it's with a character that wasn't in Unlimited. There's a good reason for it, though it's not revealed until very late in.

    Web Animation 
  • The original Animator vs. Animation appealed by using this trope in spades on the interface of Adobe Flash, before Medium Awareness became the expected norm for the rest of the series.
  • DEATH BATTLE!': In "Deadpool VS Pinkie Pie", used by both combatants as part of their fourth-wall-breaking techniques. Facing many Pinkie clones, Deadpool reaches below the video and grabs the YouTube like/dislike bar, starting to use it like a lightsaber. As Deadpool closes in on the real Pinkie, an ad for Super Rad Raygun appears and Pinkie grabs it to block the attack like a tower shield.
  • Homestar Runner has a Strong Bad Email entitled "Virus", in which a virus infects the entire website, resulting in Reality Warping. At one point Strong Bad is able to run right out of the flash video file, and into the black webpage background beyond (and the entire video moves when he tries to jump back in). Homestar also manages to pick up the text links beneath the video. In fact, both the background and links are part of the video (and in the case of the links, perfectly functional), and the video itself is larger than usual, to encompass the added area. But since these elements look exactly as they normally do, the effect is quite surprising. The chaos is finally stopped when Bubs shoots Strong Bad’s computer with a shotgun, which the virus corrupts into Homestar's disembodied leg.
  • The intro for Les Kassos has a bouncing ball over the lyrics of the theme song while some characters are singing and dancing beneath them. On the last syllable, the ball falls from the words and hits Dark Papy in the helmet.
  • In Smile HD, Pinkie Pie uses subtitles as an improvised weapon to whack at Fluttershy.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Haley Starshine steals the diamond on the cast page from herself in order to pay for a spell in the main comic.
    • In one strip, a mute Haley holds a mental argument with herself while on the road, drowning out Elan's Blah, Blah, Blah dialogue. In the final panel, it's revealed that he's literally been saying "blah blah blah" the entire time, hoping to set a new world record in consecutive use of the word.
    • In the comic book compendium of this webcomic, the party uses the narrator to distract the monster guarding the entrance to the dungeon.
    • Lien knows that Qarr is up to no good from his sinister-looking Speech Bubbles (red text on a black background).
    • It's possible to feign death by drawing X marks over one's eyes and lying very still.
    • Roy gives up on explaining how an airship works to Elan by pointing upward to the large Splash Panel that opened the strip, and saying that it took up so much space that there's none left to keep talking.
  • MS Paint Adventures has had a lot of fun with this:
    • Problem Sleuth: Ace Dick beating an NPC to death with part of the user interface and Problem Sleuth attacking the final boss' healthbars directly both come to mind.
    • Homestuck:
      • Every character has a different strange Inventory Management Puzzle called a sylladex; many shenanigans are had early on by people trying to get things out of their sylladex that they accidentally buried. But then we get to Gamzee, who, rather than bothering with doing things the hard way, reaches up into the corner of the screen where the sylladex cards are displayed and just grabs it.
      • Caliborn also annoyed everyone (readers included) when he began beating the MSPA website with a crowbar, causing it to fall apart. For bonus meta points, this particular crowbar had been much earlier identified in-story as an artifact which cancelled out temporal shenanigans, which the webcomic makes heavy use of.
      • Early on, Dave once cut his naming bar in half.
      • The "Prospit" and "Derse" text introducing those planets in act 6 are shot in two angles: one like the original front on angle that was used for the Beta Kids and Trolls; and another from the side that gives the letters depth, as if they are actually hovering next to their respective planet.
  • One of the competitors in the Coliseum Original Character Battle Tournament had this as his gimmick; he could hop between panels to make quick escapes, and use speech bubbles as shields or weapons. Unfortunately, none of his opponents were Medium Aware enough to twig to what he was actually doing or take him on using his own tricks.
  • A Loonatic's Tale: Flint is somewhat medium-aware and likes to panel-hop in order to get an edge, especially when hunting; in metanarratives outside the comic proper Flint is full-on medium-aware, genre-savvy, and wash-and-wax.
  • At the beginning of Trigger Star, a jumping mook gets (gruesomely) impaled on his own speed-lines.
  • The Daily Derp: Derpy using the chapter number to fuel a bonfire.
  • Roommates:
    • James notices that the icon in his speechbubble is out of date and climbs up a panel (using the panel border for support) to fix it.
    • The vine border appears first around panels that are dreams/flashbacks, until one page it breaks a panel and attacks somebody. Later they are revealed to be the tendrils of the Shadow Child, so the kid is, so to speak, a prop ninja.
  • A Running Gag in the Fringe strips of The Hero of Three Faces is that Walter invented those floating-letter signs you get everywhere.
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship: Nunez starts on a view of what seems to be two men dying of thirst on a sand dune, with one saying they need to escape "this dessert". The last panel zooms out to show that wasn't a typo, they're actually on a giant lemon cake.
  • Real Life has a few "cheat" comics where Greg violates the rules to prove a point. He's the first character in the comic to jump to color, and he climbs up out of the panel on another occasion to change the strip's title because it's become too unrealistic to qualify as "real life."
  • Least I Could Do: In addition to talking to the creator through the comic's "camera," Rayne Summers can see the title of his comic — and is aware of the rather severe punishment afforded to anyone who performs an accidental Title Drop.
  • In Ow, my sanity, when Shubby introduces Dave to the Shoggoth prod (like a cattle prod only more mystical and for much deadlier creatures) she points to the reverse sealing equation on the end of it, which is highlighted in a close-up connected to the end of the prod by a big arrow. After an angle change showing the close-up, the arrow and the disembodied pointing hand (which wasn't Shubby's after all) hovering in the air beside her, Dave picks up the close-up to get a better look at it. Yeah, it's a pretty weird comic sometimes.
  • Keychain of Creation: The space, time, and fate-bending abilities of the Sidereal Exalted are represented by having them actively use the comic format against their enemies. In particular, Nemen Yi leaps between comic panels, abuses perspective to hit people at range with a melee attack (think "I crush your head", except it works), and breaks off a piece of the gutter (the border between panels) to use it as a throwing weapon.
  • Daughter of the Lilies: A Drath Echo infects someone's mind as an Enemy Within and starts amplifying their insecurities. Thistle destroys it by ripping the errant thoughts out of their speech bubble and stomping on them. Later, Master Wu deal with another Echo by cutting though its speech bubble's tail with his hand.

    Web Videos 
  • The Grand Finale of 5 Second Films has the crew bemoaning that Vines have replaced them, but a crew member tears the "The End" screen in two, and in an act of revenge, the people behind 5sf swear to destroy the internet. The campaign begins when one of the team members shotguns the YouTube timer.
  • There are at least two Atop the Fourth Wall videos which start with Linkara examining the video title and expressing shock at what he's about to review.
  • In Episode 26 of Chuggaaconroy's Let's Play of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, after obtaining a Battle CD, Chuggaa ends up talking to his own onscreen info text, before making it move and putting into a text box.
  • Flander's Company: In season 5, Caleb introduces his two cousins, both also played by Ruddy Pomarede (even the female). Since the series uses a limited cast and members of the same family played by the same actors has happened in previous seasons, even for Cross-Cast Roles (notably Chantal Conasse and Hitomi Kurtzmann), it is easy to forget that Caleb has the power to create clones of himself, and indeed the two "cousins" are fake.
  • Joueur du Grenier: A casting variation in "El Presidente", the Bazar du Grenier Let's Play for Tropico 5. Since all the web videos work on a limited cast, it's usual for Fred to play several roles. So it's a genuine surprise when the CIA instructor who narrate the whole story as a Framing Device, and the CIA spy who got captured by Garavo's regime in the '50s, happen to be actually the same person.
  • Gleefully used in The Nostalgia Critic's Top 11 Best Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes. To begin with, Dante Basco as Zuko punches down the Critic out of the video player and into the YouTube comments section below. The Nostalgia Critic fights back by grabbing negative comments and throwing them at the firebender, in a literal Flame War. And when low on ammunition, he yells "Joss Whedon is overrated!" to make more appear. Then Dante seizes one to throw back at the Critic, who warns him that he's about to hit the yellow advertising line of the video. The Critic takes advantage of the commercial break to get away. Finally, still on the YouTube webpage, the Critic hides in front of his own image on the picture for his The Last Airbender review.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Sapphire Dragon episode of Xiaolin Showdown, Dojo manages to temporarily hide from the Dragon by ducking underneath the widescreen bars, which is especially humorous in a show whose native Aspect Ratio is 4:3.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Marge Be Not Proud", Homer is looking at a family portrait where Bart holds up an "I Stink" dialogue balloon behind him:
      Homer: Hey, I don't remember saying that.
    • "Treehouse of Horror VIII" opens with a FOX censor being stabbed by the TV rating graphic.
    • Another Treehouse of Horror opening has Marge kill all the FOX advertisement bugs that keep popping up on the screen exclaiming "Can't people just watch the show they're watching?".
    • A scene where Marge wakes up with a hangover seemingly has the sound of Homer's footsteps magnified to represent Marge's Hangover Sensitivity. Then the camera moves down to show his footsteps are actually that loud, because he's wearing ski shoes.
    • This trope is also discussed; In "Marge Gamer", Marge joins an MMORPG popular among the townsfolk, and is made aware of a certain high-powered player who kills all the others with ease. How deadly is he? He once beat Moe's character to death with a health bar.
  • In the Tex Avery MGM cartoon "Magical Maestro", a stray hair is seen shaking around at the bottom of the screen — a common problem with films at the time. That is, until the on-screen cartoon singer actually plucks the annoying hair out. (This gag is rumored to have turned a few projectionists bonkers as they tried to remove the way-too-realistic hair.)
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has a loose connection with the fourth wall thanks to Bat-Mite, but in "Emperor Joker!" when the clown prince of crime gets Bat-Mite's powers by mistake, reality loses its mind. Later in the episode when the omnipotent Joker leaps into Batman's brain to make him go insane, leaving the powerless Bat-Mite and the rebelling Harley Quinn to deal with his goons. This particular Harley is themed after 1920s Flappers, and The Joker has made her mute, her dialogue appearing in intertitles. Then Bat-Mite rips the intertitles off the TV screen, and he and Harley start using Harley's dialogue like 2 by 4s.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Bumpkin", Nicole and Anais are sitting at a table, but it looks like the animators forgot to add their chairs. Except Gumball actually threw out their chairs, so they're sitting on thin air—mentioning this makes Anais fall down.
    • "The Countdown" bases the entire plot on this. When Darwin says they're running late for school, a clock appears on screen counting down to when it starts. However, they're fully aware of it, and the fact that the clock runs off the show's time rather than the actual time. (For instance, them leaving the house only counts as a second because the scene changed via camera cut.) Eventually, they accidentally run into the camera, causing time to freeze until they interact with the clock again, at which point they start using it to Time Travel.
    • In "The Console", when Gumball falls afoul of a Sudden Game Interface, Leslie pops up for some loud exposition. While the gang covers their ears in pain, Gumball grabs Darwin's dialogue box, holds it above his head until the dialogue box for Leslie's annoyingly repeated line reappears and then bashes in the head of the focused image, knocking out both versions of the flower. Anais is not happy.
  • Zig & Sharko: In an episode, an attempt at cleaning up the very dirty sandcastle turns into an all-out fight between Zig and Sharko, using cleaning implements. This results in the castle getting squeaky clean, with plenty of sparkles. Then they grab the sparkles and start using them like shurikens.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In an episode where Candace gets sucked into a video game, she is attacked and her health bar appears to show her declining health. She then uses the health bar as a club.
  • Futurama:
    • In the episode "Decision 3012", the intro sequence leads directly into the events of the episode when the billboard flashes the words "FREE BEER" and Bender grabs the wheel of the Planet Express ship to crash it into the billboard per usual so that he can take advantage of the offer.
    • In "A Leela of Her Own", baseball players are seen in a changing room censored with black boxes. Then Bender accidentally unplugs the "black bar generator" and they have to cover up.
  • Various modern references made by Wirt and Greg in Over the Garden Wall appear to sit fairly happily in the Anachronism Stew that makes up part of the charm of the show. Then it turns out that they're actually normal children from our world somewhere in the 80s-00s and these off-hand jokes were all foreshadowing.


Video Example(s):


Annoying Subtitles

Birdie gets annoyed by the subtitles, which he finds intrusive and unnecessary because they're just reiterating his narration. He keeps pushing them away, and on the third time they push back. At the end, they make up.

How well does it match the trope?

4.56 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / FunWithSubtitles

Media sources: