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Web Animation / Meta Runner

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♫ I'm always running... note 
"Video games are everything! Jobs, entertainment, lifestyle, it's the engine that powers society itself, and to make it in this society, you need to win...a lot. Be it in FPS games, platformers, battle royales, you name it. There are gamers who train every waking moment of their life in hopes of becoming the best. And at the top of the food chain, you have Meta Runners. People who are willing to replace their limbs just for a boost in accuracy, dexterity, and performance. With legions of fans who adore them, Meta Runners are the best of the best. That is, until the world sees what I have planned. Until the world sees you... Tari."
Dr. Sheridan, Opening Narration, "Wrong Warp"

Meta Runner is a CG animated web series created by Kevin and Luke Lerdwichagul (the latter better known as SMG4) and the first fully-animated series made by their studio, Glitch Productions.

The series takes place in Silica City, a society centered around video games where Meta Runners—individuals who've replaced their arms with machines to boost their gaming performance—dominate the competitive scene. At the center of the story is Tari, an amnesiac girl who wakes up in an abandoned lab with a Meta Runner arm attached, and soon discovers she has the odd ability to enter the games she plays, allowing her to master them in ways unparalleled by other gamers.

However, Derek Lucks, the head of local megacorporation TAS Corp, has his own plans for Tari and her abilities, especially after he sees her pull a game character, the platformer protagonist Theo, into the real world. On the run from Lucks and his top Meta Runner, Belle Fontiere, Tari and Theo soon find themselves tangled up in the affairs of MD-5, a trio out to expose TAS Corp's corrupt practices. With nowhere else to go, Tari joins MD-5 in their mission to take down Lucks—and possibly discover who, or what, she really is...

Tari is notable for making an Early-Bird Cameo in the creators' flagship SMG4 series to drum up interest in the then-unannounced show, albeit as a more cartoonish version of herself who is bad at everything except video games. Belle was similarly ported over to the series in 2020.

First teased at the end of War of the Fat Italians 2018 and officially unveiled on December 5, 2018, the ten-episode first season premiered on the SMG4 channel on July 25, 2019, and concluded on October 10. A Compilation Movie of Season 1, subtitled New Game+, released on the standalone Glitch Productions channel on August 28, 2020 as part of the run-up to the second season. Season 2 premiered on the Glitch channel on October 16, 2020 and concluded on December 18. A third and final season, consisting of eight episodes, premiered on July 22, 2022, with the series concluding on September 9.

A pilot for a proposed Spin-Off centered around Theo, titled Ultra Jump Mania, premiered on September 4, 2020. Shortly after the series finale's premiere, a comic book Prequel series titled Meta Runner: Source was announced, with its first issue—covering Tari's origins—shipping in November 2022.

Watch it here.

Trailers: Season 1, New Game+, Season 2, Season 3 teaser, Season 3 trailer

Tropes describing Meta Runner:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series is set in the 22nd century, but the gaming scene resembles the one in the late 2010s.
  • Aerith and Bob: The villains consist of Derek Lucks, Belle Fontiere, Evelyn Claythorne and… Sheridan.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: The final battle on Sheridan's server combines weapons and locales from all of the video games played throughout the series.
  • Alternate Universe: Confirmed to take place in a different universe from the Mario series. Granted, it does take itself more seriously than the SMG4 anyway.
  • Amnesiac Hero: The very first episode begins with Tari leaving some lab with no recollection to where she is, or why. Subverted when it's revealed that she is really an A.I. and doesn't have actual memories prior to being given human form. Double Subverted in Meta Runner: Source, which gives details on Tari's life as a computer program before she gained human form.
    Tari: This place is incredible... but, why does it seem so familiar?
  • Animal Motifs: Five of the main characters are based on birds: Tari is a bluejay, Belle a phoenix, Lamar a peacock, Sofia a canary, and Masa a falcon.
  • Answer Cut: This conversation in S2E2
    Evelyn: Who would even play [an MMO dating sim]?
    Tari: I think I know who'd play that.
    Cut to a closeup of Lamar.
  • Art Evolution: Season 2's art style advances from the style of Season 1, with more realistic characters models and features, in particular Tari now sporting some faint freckles on her face. Subverted with Season 3, where Skybreakers features another new artstyle, but that only applies to said game while the rest of the season keeps the Season 2 designs.
  • The Artifact: Theo's game cartridge reuses Theo's Season 1 design in Season 2 and Season 3.
  • Artificial Limbs Are Stronger: A variant. The reason Meta Runners replace one of their arms with a cybernetic one is so they can perform faster and more precise movements, as well as getting additional options and information for the games they play, directly from their arm's holographic display.
  • Art Shift: Happens when Sofia discusses MD-5's plan to infiltrate TAS Corp. To go with her explanation, she plays a holographic animation that takes place in a medieval-esque era, while the characters adopt a minimalist chibi design.
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer: Hidden Heroes, the game played in the match Tari and Evelyn practice for throughout Season 2 and actually perform in starting in Hack and Slash is a game featuring a smaller team of the two eponymous protagonists against a larger team of players (A team of 10 normally, with the TAS Corp match using a modded version that raises it to 50), with the game's story portraying it as the last line of defense of a town attacked by a larger invasion force.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • "Shutdown", the season 1 finale, ends with Lucks having succeeded in thwarting Operation Silent Demon, forcing Tari to join TAS Corp in exchange for letting MD-5 walk away and never interfering with his business again, and capturing Theo to ensure both parties don't step out of line.
    • To a lesser yet significant extent, "Fatal Error" has Sheridan manipulating Masa's arm into killing Lucks, getting rid of his old Bad Boss for good.
  • Big Bad: Lucks, the CEO of TAS Corp, with Belle Fontiere as his Dragon in Season 1, and Evelyn being his in Season 2. He's killed by Dr. Sheridan at the end of Season 2, who the takes up the position for Season 3.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sheridan gets his brutal, fatal comeuppance, Evelyn is sent to jail, and Lucinia is finally brought back to life. However, to do so, Tari had to transplant back the parts of Lucinia's mind that allowed her to live in the first place, and now along with Theo lives entirely as a digital entity within Cyberspace, with the likelihood of the two ever seeing their friends again very low. But Tari still believes they’ll be able to come back someday, and in the meantime, they have all the time in the world to play video games together.
  • Bookends: The second episode of Season 1 is set in Ultra Jump Mania, and the penultimate episode of Season 2 is set in a far more corrupted version of Ultra Jump Mania.
  • The Cameo: Kizuna Ai appears in S2 eps 4 and 5 as Tari's guide to Pocket Gatsuki.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Near the beginning of season 1, Belle uses the Coconut Burst Glitch (a glitch reminiscent of the Backwards Long Jump) while speedrunning Ultra Jump Mania. In episode 2 of season 2, Theo uses this glitch to beak out of his room at TAS Corp, though not for long.
  • Cliffhanger: Nearly every episode ends with one, including the first two season finales.
  • Compilation Movie: Meta Runner New Game+, an edit of all 10 episodes of Season 1 into a feature-length film.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lucks, naturally being the CEO of a Cyberpunk Mega-Corp, wants to acquire Tari to further strengthen TAS Corp. He and his company has also done some shady practices if MD-5 is to believed.
  • Crapsack World: The reason why Belle sides with TAS Corp is because the rest of Silica City is even worse (at least from her perspective).
    Belle: Let me put it this way: an arm is the LEAST painful thing for a Meta Runner to give up!
  • Creative Closing Credits: Transfer Student ends with a credit sequence containing pictures of Tari and Satsuki hanging out which flicker to show glimpses of Theo in peril.
  • Crossover: "Fast Food Fight" is a special that features Egoraptor and TheOdd1sOut. Since it doesn't fit within the series chronology, you can place it out of canoncity.
    • "Transfer Student", the fourth episode of season two, features Kizuna Ai as the tutorial guide of the game Tari goes into.
  • Cyberpunk: The world at large carries an aesthetic that can be considered as such, with culture being centered around a technological medium, transhumanism being a well-established practice, and a large corporation with minimal adherence to ethics running the show.
  • Cyberspace: Season 2 has Theo glitching into TAS Corp's servers, which, from his perspective, are a purple landscape of floating data cubes and hexagonal floor structures.
    • This is where Tari and Theo end up come the end of the series, represented as a Fluffy Cloud Heaven.
  • Cyborg: The titular Meta Runners are these, being professional gamers who augmented themselves so they could be even better at gaming.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The members of MD-5; when they're asked what TASCorp did to them,, the mood in the room drops like a brick:
    Sofia (rueful): We... We each have our own reasons.
    Lamar (equally depressed): Let's just say.. they destroyed many lives. Including ours.
    • Nothing's really been the same for Belle ever since Lucinia mysteriously disappeared.
  • Darker and Edgier: While it still has its humorous moments, Meta Runner is a much more mature and serious show compared to most episodes of SMG4. And that's even before the Season 1 finale.
  • Death Is Cheap: At least, when Tari and Theo are in a video game, as they usually respawn if they kick the bucket, or get kicked out of the game if respawning isn't possible. Averted in Season 3, where Evelyn is given a special knife that can lethally damage virtual bodies by making them bleed data.
  • Digital Abomination: The Glitchemoth, a digital avatar controlled by Evelyn to use against Tari and Theo. A hideous amalgamation of Ultra Jump Mania assets and even some of Evelyn's own body parts, equipped with a Breath Weapon that fires UJM enemies, can pick up and throw pieces of the environment, and is near-indestructible thanks to the infinite lives cheat Evelyn has in place. Fortunately, completing UJM manages to overwrite the corrupted save file and destroy it for good.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Season 3 Episode 6 has Theo come clean about how he’s been glitching out since the end of Season 2, with it only getting worse over time (over the course of a week). Since his existence has only ever been stable within the stasis of his memory card, the boring white TAS Corp room, or the nightmarishly corrupted Ultra Jump Mania cartridge, he’d prefer to hang out in the real world with his friends, even if it means he’s going to die soon. All this brings to mind a child with a terminal illness who would rather go out and play than stay hooked onto life support at all times.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The "Tari's Live Stream" short sets up most of the supporting cast in short order: Sofia as the excitable tech girl, Lamar as an Otaku and Masa as the no-nonsense commander.
    • Lucks and Belle's first conversation sets them up. We get a full display of Belle's arrogance and discrimination against non-pro gamers, as well as Lucks's controlled yet cruel nature.
    • When season two begins, our first impression of the new character, Evelyn, is her whining about Tari getting more attention than her.
    • The first time Tari, Belle and Masa meet Dr. Sheridan at the beginning of season 3, they're tipped off to his insanity not only from his deranged, yet oddly whimsical mannerisms, but also the chaotic nature of the virtual world they're all trapped inside.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Tari has one when learning about "Pocket Gakusei", an online anime dating simulator and a potential method of contacting MD5.
    Tari: Nothing wrong with being an okatu, some of my best friends... (realizes something) are... otakus... (later) I'd think I know who'd play that.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: During Belle and Theo's fight against the containment program in Transfer Student, Belle takes control and starts throwing a ton of coconuts directly into the sky.
    Theo: Uh... I think you missed.
    Belle: Oh... did I?
    The coconuts start spinning around Theo, destroying any bots that get near.
    • Theo gets to pay it forward to Evelyn during Fatal Error with the exact same line.
  • Fantasy All Along: In episode 2, after getting past the gate, Tari and Theo end up in an arena where multiple palm tree monsters appear. Tari punches one of them, and just hurts her hand. this looks like a realism-based subversion of Invulnerable Knuckles, but it turns out realism had nothing to do with it when Theo explains that the real reason Tari's punch didn't work was because it doesn't fit Ultra Jump Mania's "E" rating.
  • Fictional Counterpart:
    • Some video game logos/designs shown in Silica City are stand-ins for their real life counterpart such as Borderworlds and Mr. Mero.
    • Wondy's has posters pop up from time to time.
    • Ultra Jump Mania is clearly this universe's equivalent to Super Mario 64, being a 3D platformer that is popular with speedrunners due to its physics glitches. Theo's coconut throw attack is also inspired by the Cap Throw from Super Mario Odyssey.
  • Fictional Video Game: Pops up all over the place. Particularly relevant ones include:
    • Ultra Jump Mania!: A 3D platformer, and Theo's home of sorts. This is the first video game Tari warps into. Theo is later trapped in a corrupted version of this game, though manages to get out thanks to Belle, and later, Tari.
    • Battle Blaze: A first person shooter. Masa uses it to help gauge Tari's abilities.
    • Tempest: A battle royale game based around battle mages. A TAS Corp run tournament is the main focus of the latter half of season 1.
    • Turbo Crash 9: A demo-derby vehicle combat game. MD-5 enter a tournament in order to win Masa a new Meta Runner arm.
    • Pocket Gakusei: An online anime dating sim. Tari, Belle, and MD-5 end up using this to communicate with one another to formulate a new plan to take down TAS Corp
    • Hidden Heroes: A hack-and-slash Asymmetric Multiplayer game where two heroes fight an army of enemy soldiers. This game is played for a live audience by TAS Corp, through which MD-5 hope to download TAS Corp's server data through Sophia's phone in Belle's possesion.
    • Skybreakers: A Sky Pirate-themed MMO action game. The last major game introduced in the series, it’s the major game in Season 3, which Tari ends up in after Evelyn disables her warp function, forcing her and MD-5 to voyage through the game manually in order to reach Sheridan’s server.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Episode 3, Lamar’s username appears in Tari’s stream chat warning her to get out of the Streaming Pod well before he actually physically appears at the end of the episode.
    • In Episode 4, Belle smugly predicts Tari that won't last a couple of days in Silica City before begging for a job at TAS Corp, something Tari immediately shoots down. In the season finale, that's exactly what Tari does in a last-ditch effort to save MD-5 when Lucks captures them.
    • Similarly, in Episode 1, Tari lies about being a TAS Corp Meta Runner while trying to get away from the crowd surrounding her. Come the end of Season 1, Tari actually is a TAS Corp Meta Runner.
    • In Epidode 12, Masa’s annoying neighbour barges in for the second time when Masa mentions Dr. Sheridan by name. The season 2 finale reveals that Dr. Sheridan was Masa’s neighbor, effectively spying on him throughout the events of the season, before it culminates to him using Masa’s meta runner arm to frame Masa for Lucks’ murder.
    • In Episode 16, we can see that the match of Hidden Heroes that Tari and Evelyn are playing has the friendly fire setting turned on, thanks to Lamar and Masa's team-killing. Evelyn takes advantage of this to try and eliminate Tari once she catches wind of MD-5's sabotage in the very next episode.
    • The Season 2 opening at some point shows Lucks and Belle looking away from each other, with Belle looking particularly upset, as if they were a broken couple not speaking to each other. This would be the season where Belle finds out Lucks' lies and turns on him.
    • In Friendly Fire, Theo gets some inspiration on how to glitch through an obstacle after seeing the purple sparkles that appeared throughout the season pass through the area. In the next episode a flashback shows Lucinia, Masa, and Belle's time at TAS Corp. During the flashback, Lucinia, playing Ultra Jump Mania!, pulls off a glitch similar to the one Theo does. This eventually leads to the reveal in Fatal Error that those sparkles are "pieces" of Lucinia lost in TAS Corp's servers.
    • Tari's true identity has been foreshadowed ever since the start of the series. Combine Tari's flashbacks from episode 1 with the Project Blue playback files in episode 6 and you've got your first hint that Tari isn't really human.
    • Of all places, this can be found in SMG4's "If Mario was in Meta Runner" video, where the SMG4 cast replaces the Meta Runner cast and comically abridges the plot of Season 1. At one point, Masa's stand-in shoots a picture of Lucks' stand-in out of the blue; this references Masa being forced to shoot Lucks in the season 2 finale.
    • In the third episode of the final season, the Lucks AI takes a moment to give Masa and Belle a sympathetic look. Ultimatley, he reveals in the final episode that he's more than just an Extreme Doormat by giving Tari advice on how to save herself and Theo.
    • Sheridan's ultimate plan is hinted at during the start of Season 3.
      • This conversation near the end of Power Down.
      Tari: Is everyone warped in here now?
      Sheridan: No, no... that's for later. (Winks)
      • During the subsequent fight in Testing Room, Tari blocks an attack with a test model of Lamar. This causes the real Lamar's Meta Runner arm to spark, hinting at a connection between the two.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Thanks to the Project Blue vision Tari has, both she and we get to see brief descriptions of certain things, such as a player's inventory, a spell description out of Tempest, NPC information, and even sign board information.
  • Freudian Trio: If we don't count Tari and Theo, all three members of MD-5 forms one, with Sofia being the excited and quirky Id, Masa as the no-nonsense, tough-minded Superego, and Lamar as the usually easygoing but capable-to-be-serious Ego.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The In-Universe game Tempest crashes if a player uses WindBurst to smash into the ground at a specific angle at a specific speed. One plot point has MD-5 deliberately trying to trigger it.
  • Gamer Chick: Tari, as she was in her origins. Belle, Lucinia and Evelyn certainly qualify as well.
  • Good Bad Bugs: Invoked. From duplication glitches to wall-clipping, players are seen exploiting these all over the place, usually in Ultra Jump Mania!.
  • Hope Spot: While Operation Silent Demon ended up going completely south, Sofia left another chance for MD-5 by putting a backup of the incriminating data on TAS Corp on her phone before Lucks had the original data on her laptop wiped, and planting it in a trash can for a Belle to find. At the start of Season 2, Belle is attempting to hack into the phone.
    • One for Theo at the end of Transfer Student. After his latest escape attempt fails, Lucks moves him into a copy of Ultra Jump Mania!. Theo celebrates being home... then his leg falls through the floor, which quickly becomes the least of his worries.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a term used in speedrunning, gaming, or just computers in general.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: In-Universe, Meta Runners (and possibly anyone with the right camera app) can scan their faces to have themselves as the Player Character.
  • Insufferable Imbecile: Evelyn, of the Stupid Evil category due to how excessive she is with being an annoying Womanchild towards Tari and one who is an utterly Hate Sink character that can show some Fury-Fueled Foolishness from time to time when Suddenly Shouting or being a Sore Loser are examples of this.
  • Intrepid Fictioneer: Tari does this (with varying degrees of intent) with games she plays to learn how to master them.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The short advertising Meta Runner: Source takes place after the Series Finale, showing Tari and Theo in the former's new personal server and indicating that Tari is a computer program.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The TAS in TAS Corp stands for "tool-assisted speedrun", which is a common type of speedrun that uses set input files and emulators to find the absolute shortest amount of time a speedrun can be completed in, usually to find out if said time is achievable by an "unassisted" speedrun.
    • As a Meta Runner, Tari has the ability to consciously enter games, though downplayed due to this ability being only available to her. That is, until Dr. Sheridan begins mass warping all of the Meta Runners into his server and reveals that he made the Meta Runner arm, meaning that any Meta Runner can be warped, thus playing the trope straight.
  • Mega-Corp: TAS Corp appears to be your standard cyberpunk megacorporation, though there are a few others that get name-dropped in Episode 1, such as Cloud7 and AlphaMax.
  • Mood Whiplash: Theo's rather an expert at defusing a downer situation out of nowhere.
  • Mundane Utility: Artificial Limbs exist and can grant people superhuman dexterity. This is only used to make people better at playing video games.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: An non-sexual variation: Lamar invokes this trope in response to Marco leering at the former's Meta Runner arm.
  • Mythology Gag: One of Tari's in-game avatars in the Season 2 trailer, a robot, calls back to the original "robot" design for Tari.
  • Neon City: Silica City, with its dark blue color aesthetic and gobs of billboards and signs.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: A variant in Episode 6. MD-5's Ultra Jump Mania cartridge doesn't react well to having two Theos in it.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch:
    • This happens in Episode 2 where Lucks showed up in the game as a Palette Swap of Theo and during the process of Lucks's scientists attempting to tamper with Tari's cybernetic arm.
    • Being pulled out of his cartridge into the real world causes Theo to briefly glitch randomly.
    • This also happens in Episode 6 when an Ultra Jump Mania cartridge reacts poorly to having two Theos, as well as the cartridge with the missing Theo whenever it tries to boot up.
    • In Episode 8, this unusually occurs during Tari's transition into the Tempest game for the tournament, leading to her temporarily ending up in a bizarre void place.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The scenes in Season 2 where Masa and Sheridan put Meta Bugs on Marco and Masa are shown again at the start of Season 3, changing the angles to more clearly show the action in question.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Belle has a habit of calling Tari "honey" or "babe" during most of their encounters in Season 1. She stops doing this when she realizes that Project Blue was responsible for Lucinia's death, though she picks the habit up again when she defects to MD-5.
    • Lucks is normally a Soft-Spoken Sadist who keeps his cool even when he’s at his most evil, but when everything starts going wrong for him in the Season 2 finale, he finally loses it and enters his first and only Villainous Breakdown throughout the series.
  • Palmtree Panic: The level from Ultra Jump Mania that Tari and Theo are on in Episode 2 is this, filled with plenty of tropical trees, sand shores and wooden platforms and structures.
    • Interestingly, the map that Tari plays in Battle Blaze also has palm trees, despite being the opposite of Ultra Jump Mania in basically every other way.
  • Parting-from-Consciousness Words: Lamar casually notes how TAS Corp upgraded their armored vans before fainting after crashing straight into one in Fatal Error.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • Just before Masa’s mind control chip explodes, knocking both him and Sheridan out, Masa drops one.
      Masa: So? I thought you wanted to be just like Lucks!
    • Sheridan ends up being on the receiving end of another one in the Grand Finale, this time by Marco.
      Sheridan: None of you stupid, brainless, weak-minded idiots are going to destroy my work EVER AGAIN!
      Marco: Well technically I’m not going to destroy your work. You are.
  • Product Placement: Crunchyroll ads are seen around at the city during the first season, and is name-dropped by Lamar at one point. This was likely intentional, since they provided some funding for the series.
    • AMD, another one of the series' backers, is also featured prominently throughout the first season. It also gets name-dropped at one point, as one of the prizes of the climatic Tempest tournament is a sponsorship with them.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Season 1 borders on Downer Ending, but not enough to keep the heroes down. MD-5's plan has backfired, Sofia has surrendered all of their information on TAS Corp, and Tari's involvement in Lucinia's death—a major uniting factor for the group—has been exposed to them. Tari then willingly enters TAS Corp's service in exchange for her friends' safety, and Theo's been captured and used as collateral to ensure her cooperation. However, Tari's friends still refuse to abandon Tari and promise to come back for her, and Belle finds a backup copy of the data Sophia gave them and keeps it to herself.
  • Red Herring: The MD-5, Tari, and Theo spend a good majority of Season 1 trying to retrieve Theo's cartridge to prevent the latter from dying due to glitching from being outside of his game cartridge for too long. This turns out to be false, as the real reason for the glitches was because his character data was still stored inside of the cartridge and TASCorp's messing with the cartridge (such as plugging it and unplugging it from the console) caused Theo to glitch out. Destroying the cartridge destroys Theo's body, but he can be revived as long as the game's memory chip is preserved. Thus, in Season 2, Tari and the MD-5 devised a plan to remove Theo from the game so that he could be rescued from TAS Corp and succeeded.
  • The Reveal:
    • Episode 6: The screaming woman who seemingly died along with Dr. Sheridan in Tari's cryptic memory at the beginning of the series is revealed to be Lucinia, one of Lucks' Meta Runners and an acquaintance of Belle who seemingly vanished a year ago, who volunteered to be the test subject for Sheridan's mysterious Project Blue without TAS Corp's knowledge.
    • Episode 9: Masa used to be a TAS Corp Meta Runner and its team captain until he, believing Lucks had murdered Lucinia, was decommissioned for trying to hack into Lucks' private server for evidence, leading to him forming MD-5.
    • Episode 10: Sofia is revealed to be Lucinia's sister, who joined MD-5 in part to find out what had happened to her. Also, Lucks used the corrupted Ultra Jump Mania cartridge to hack into Theo's vision and find out about Operation Silent Demon, and is also working on a project involving someone in cryostasis.
    • Episode 15: Lucks had known about what happened to Lucinia (who’s also implied to be alive, but just barely), and had been lying to Belle about it for two years, which drives her to pull a Heel–Face Turn.
    • The Season 2 finale finally reveals the connection between Tari and Lucinia: Lucinia survived the Project Blue explosion and she was physically healed, but her mind ended up fragmented; while part of it was uploaded to TAS Corp’s servers, the other parts of it, the ones needed to fully revive her, were uploaded and merged into Dr. Sheridan’s AI, Turbo Artificial Rapid Intelligence (short for TARI), giving it sentience, and eventually it somehow ended up in an artificial body, giving birth to the Tari we all know.
  • Rewatch Bonus: You'll notice billboards advertising games in the earlier episodes, even when those games aren't important to the plot until much later. An especially notable example is in episode 4: The billboard that Tari knocks down to use as a ramp is advertising "Fast Food Fight", a game that is featured in the bonus episode released after the Season 1 finale.
    • Satsuki-Chan appears on billboards in S1E1 and on Lamar's Body pillow in S1E6 before her character's appearance in season 2.
    • The flashbacks that Tari had in S1E1 didn't just have an Ominous Visual Glitch effect just for horror's sake, they're also your first hint that Tari didn't start out as a human, as the flashbacks were actually recordings made by the Turbo Artificial Rapid Intelligence A.I. program, meaning that Tari wasn't suffering from amnesia because they were her only memories. When Belle watches the Project Blue playback files in S1E6, one of the files is corrupted. This is the file where Dr. Sheridan says Tari's name, meaning that Belle was this close to finding out that Tari is an A.I. program early on.
    • Near the end of Season 2, episode 3, Masa cheats by disabling Marco's extra limbs with an EMP. In the first scene, you can see exactly when Masa places the EMP on Marco during their first meeting. You can also see Masa taking off the EMP right before Marco lashes out and accuses him of cheating.
    • Remember the guy with the emoting headgear? He is revealed to be Dr. Sheridan in the stinger of Season 2. Pay close attention, and you'll see when he puts the chip that he uses to control Masa's arm in an easy-to-miss scene in episode 8.
  • Serious Business: Video games are what the world of Meta Runner revolves around, to the point where people are willing to give up not only their arms, but everything of value just to stay on top. Tari is baffled and disturbed by this kind of mindset, so Belle gives her a demonstration in Episode 4:
    Belle: (to nearby guard) Yo, Frank! I fell off my motorbike yesterday. Almost broke three bones.
    Guards give no reaction
    Belle: I got a personal best of 33:18 in Dragon Kart just this morning.
    Guards give a thumbs-up
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first episode, a man is shown playing in front of a Kinect-like screen, and his avatar is Axol. Tari does the same, and sees her counterpart from SMG4.
      • "War of the Fat Italians 2019" later reveals that SMG4!Tari was in an arcade at the time, and saw Meta Runner!Tari on a glitching television. It convinced her to stop playing video games for the day because she thought she was hallucinating.
    • The name of Simpleflip Island, the staring level of Ultra Jump Mania, is a reference to Super Mario 64 speedrunner SimpleFlips.
      • Theo himself uses Mario’s catchphrase, “Let’s a-go!”, in the Season 3 trailer.
    • Episode 4 has a fast food billboard featuring TheOdd1sOut and Arin.
    • In Episode 6, Sofia's tablet has the SMG4 logo on it, as well as Saiko's emblem.
    • Episode 7 sees Theo shooting beams of light out of his fingers in a manner very similar to Cuphead.
    • In Episode 8, Lamar has lawyer-friendly versions of Sayori, Natsuki, and Yuri as wallpaper on the screen of his Meta Runner arm.
    • Again in episode 8, most characters wear masks to obscure their faces. Theo, instead, has his Face Framed in Shadow with yellow, glowing eyes. Paired with his comical wizard cap, he bears a great resemblance to Black Mage
    • In Episode 11, Belle is trying to break the lock on Sofia's phone, and upon failing again, a chibi Sofia pops up and says "Uh-oh! Someone needs a time-out!" This is a reference to the scene in Jurassic Park when Arnold discovers the virus Nedry put in the island's computer system to aid his escape with stolen dinosaur embryos.
    • The title of the third episode of Season 2, "Unreal Engines", is a rather obvious reference to the Unreal Engine, the famous game engine developed by Epic Games (who helps funds the show), which itself is used the animate the show.
    • Two of them to SMG4 in episode 4 (fittingly enough):
      • The last user that Tari sees when trying to manually search for Lamar bears a striking resemblance to Bob if his bio is to be believed. From his creepy mannerisms, to his username "Bobbinalong", even to the fact that he mostly obscures his appearance with a hat and trench coat, similar to Bob's appearance.
      • As Theo searches through TAS Corp's server, he comes across "Spletzer Records", a reference to Meggy Spletzer's name, and "W.A.H. Launcher Blueprints", referencing the running gag of turning Waluigi into a rocket launcher.
      • Another, more explicit reference can be found in Global Testfire after Sheridan mass-warps tons of Meta Runners into his private server, with a player voiced by Luke with a screen name starting with "SMG".
    • In episode 17, among the options that Tari's program flits through when trying to figure out what to do about Evelyn, two of the options are "slide to the left" and "slide to the right", a reference to DJ Casper's memetic Cha Cha Slide.
    • Theo and Lamar reference the original Leeroy Jenkins video in Death Warp.
      Theo: Alright, let's do this! CRACKERRRRRRRR JAAAAACK!
      Lamar: Oh boy, he just ran in.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • Evelyn accuses Tari of having built in "aim-bots" as an excuse for not turning off the infinite lives cheat. What makes this trope is that Tari is actually an Artificial Intelligence in a human body.
    • Theo can perform certain actions that players are unable to make him do with the controller, though they don't really do too much. He can even act while being controlled, which allows him to perform a trick shot that allows him to glitch through a wall while being controlled by Belle.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: When Belle catches Tari taking the scientist's phone in hopes of contacting MD-5, she lets her have it, though partially because she herself needs Sofia to get into her phone and find out exactly what happened to Lucinia.
    Belle (with smug grin): It's some weeby dating sim. What's the worst you could do with it?
  • Time Skip:
    • Season 2 picks up six months after the events of the season 1 finale.
    • Season 3 takes place one week after what happened in the previous season.
  • Tournament Arc:
    • The second half of Season 1 is focused on Tari participating in a TAS Corp ran tournament for Tempest, particularly to activate a server crashing glitch to allow MD-5 to search through Lucks' servers for incriminating information to take down TAS Corp.
    • Episodes 6-8 of Season 2 has MD-5 infiltrate Tari and Evelyn’s Hidden Heroes show match, with the goal of keeping the game going long enough to allow Belle to download the incriminating TAS Corp data off of Sofia’s phone, using the game cartridge to bypass the company’s firewall.
  • Unfriendly Fire: During the Hidden Heroes match in the latter half of Season 2, Masa and Lamar infiltrate the team Tari and Evelyn are playing against. Teamkilling ensues, much to the annoyance of characters voiced by the Lerdwichagul brothers.
  • Wham Episode: "Fatal Error", the Season 2 finale. Lucinia's survival is revealed to the others, and Tari is revealed to be an Artificial Human housing Dr. Sheridan's gaming A.I. and pieces of Lucinia's consciousness. Also, Masa's arm gets hijacked and is forced to shoot Lucks dead, and the rest of MD-5 is forced to leave him and Belle behind in order to escape the authorities. Lastly, The Stinger shows that the one who orchestrated Lucks's death is a still-living Sheridan, who strikes a deal with Evelyn so she can get revenge on Tari, setting him up as the new Big Bad.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Lucks reveals that Lucinia is still alive and that her consciousness was trapped in an A.I., Belle questions why he hadn't found this "A.I." yet. Lucks then drops this line onto the whole gang:
      "We did. She's standing right next to you."
    • In the post credits scene of the second season, after Evelyn gets a mysterious call from someone, after she asks who this person is, they drop the biggest bomb shell in the entire series thus far, which is saying a whole lot given the wham heavy nature of the series:
      Oh, getting into Meta Runner arms is easy if you know what you’re doing. As for who I am, well, I’ve gone by a few names and aliases recently, but for you, my dear, you can call me… Sheridan.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In Episode 2, when Tari is forcibly pulled out of the game world, we then see Theo, a game character, in the real world.
    • In episode 5, Belle finds an SD card. After inserting it into her arm, Tari's wing insignia shows up on her screen with a name: Project Blue.
    • Episode 20 has several.
      • Right before the credits, Marco shows up to intercept the gang before they can be found by the police.
      • At the end of the stinger, Sheridan is revealed to have survived the lab explosion, but not without some nasty burns. He teams up with Evelyn in hopes of getting to Tari.
  • Worldbuilding: According to Word of God, the entirety of the Meta Runner lore is fully fleshed out, already having all of the characters' backstories fully constructed and being big enough for a spin-off set in the past and future to be created.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!:
    • In the first half of season 2, Tari's goal is to get back in contact with MD-5, and she eventually finds a way with the game Pocket Gakusei, an anime dating sim with an online component that Lamar probably uses. However, this is not quite enough, as Tari realizes that she doesn't know his screen name, forcing her to "date" one of his favorite characters just to get more information.
    • At the end of Season 2, MD-5 finally takes down Lucks and TAS Corp, Tari and Theo are free, and Lucinia is revealed to be intact with a chance of fully reviving her. All’s well that ends well, right? Not if Dr. Sheridan has anything to say about it.


"I'm Always Running"

After having her full Meta Runner powers restored, Tari manages to overpower Evelyn. All set to the instrumental theme from the First Season.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThemeMusicPowerUp

Media sources: