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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, "Wrong Warp"
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Meta Runner is a CG animated web series created by Kevin and Luke Lerdwichagul (better known as SMG4) and their studio, Glitch Productions. The series follows the amnesiac cyborg Tari in a world centered around video gaming, where "Meta Runners"—individuals who've replaced their arms with machines to boost their gaming performance—dominate the competitive scene. Tari discovers she has the odd ability to enter the games she plays, allowing her to master them in ways unparalleled by other Meta Runners and the fame of the public. However, Lucks, the head of local megacorporation TASCorp, has his own plans for Tari and her abilities...

Tari is notable for making an Early-Bird Cameo in SMG4's Mario Bloopers as a member of the main cast, albeit a more cartoonish version of herself who is bad at everything except video games. Belle was similarly ported over to the bloopers in 2020.

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The first season premiered on the SMG4 channel, staring on July 25, 2019, and ending on October 10, 2019. A Compilation Movie of the first season, Meta Runner New Game+, released on the newly launched standalone Glitch Productions channel on August 28, 2020 as part of the run-up to the second season. Season 2 was announced to be in development upon the Season 1 finale's release, premiering on the Glitch channel on October 16, 2020 and concluding on December 18, 2020. A third season was announced to be in development midway through Season 2.

A pilot for a spin-off centered around the deutragonist Theo, titled Ultra Jump Mania, premiered on September 4, 2020.

Trailers: Season 1, New Game+, Season 2


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Tropes describing Meta Runner:

  • Alternate Universe: Confirmed to take place in a different universe from the Mario Bloopers. Granted it does take itself more seriously than the Bloopers anyway.
  • Amnesiac Hero: The very first episode begins with Tari leaving some lab with no recollection to where she is, or why.
    Tari: This place is incredible... but, why does it seem so familiar?
  • 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.
  • Artificial Limbs Are Stronger: A variant. The reason Meta Runners replaces one of their arms with a cybernetic arm 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 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.
  • Art Shift: Happens when Sofia discusses MD-5's plan to infiltrate TASCorp. 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 TASCorp 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 TASCorp 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.
  • Big Bad: Lucks, the CEO of TASCorp is this in the first two seasons, with Belle Fontiere as his Dragon in Season 1, and Evelyn being his in Season 2.
  • The Cameo: Kizuna AI appears in S2E4 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 TAScorp, though not for long.
  • Cliffhanger: Nearly every episode in Season 1 ends with one, including the finale.
  • 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 TASCorp. He and his company has also done some shady practices if MD-5 is to believed.
  • Crapsack World: The reason why Belle sides with TASCorp 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 TASCorp’s servers, which, from his perspective, are a purple landscape of floating data cubes and hexagonal floor structures.
  • 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 asked by Tari: "What did TASCorp do to you?", 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 TASCorp 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 TASCorp
    • Hidden Heroes: A hack-and-slash multiplayer game where two heroes fight an army of enemy soldiers. This game is played for a live audience by TASCorp, through which MD-5 hope to download TASCorp's server data through Sophia's phone in Belle's possesion.
  • Foreshadowing: In Episode 4, Belle smugly predicts Tari that won't last a couple of days in Silica City before begging for a job at TASCorp, 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 TASCorp Meta Runner while trying to get away from the crowd surrounding her. Come the end of Season 1, Tari actually is a TASCorp 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 neighbour, 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.
    • In Friendly Fire, Theo gets some inspiration on how to glitch through an obstacle after seeing some purple sparkles pass through the area. In the next episode a flashback shows Lucinia, Masa, and Belle's time at TASCorp. During the flashback, Lucinia pulls off a glitch similar to the one Theo does. Sure enough, Fatal Error reveals them to be "pieces" of Lucinia.
    • Of all places, this can be found in SMG4’s “If Mario was in Meta Runner” blooper video, where the SMG4 cast replaces the Meta Runner cast and comically abridge 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.
  • 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: While there is no rating system, with Meta Runner being a Youtube animation and all, they keep Meta Runner mostly PG to attract a wider audience. That doesn't stop them from getting cheeky every now and then.
    • Belle nearly lets out a Precision F-Strike in episode 4 before being cut off by Lucks.
    • In the special short "she has an announcement to make", Bo rifles through a box of stuff. Amidst the things she tosses over her shoulder are a pair of handcuffs. Not only are they out of place in Bo's room, but are shown to be virtually useless when Bo was teleporting around her room in just the previous scene. Unless, of course, they're used for their more... kinky purposes.
    • As Tari tries manually searching for Lamar is S2E4, she comes across several unsavory individuals, but the last one is the worst. We don't see him in person, but Tari does, and she is terrified. Not surprising, considering how, according to his bio, his favorite date location is "basement", with a cited quote being "no one can hear you".
  • 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 TASCorp 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, Lux 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.
  • Meaningful Name: The TAS in TASCorp 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.
  • Mega-Corp: TASCorp 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.
  • Motif: Birds for some characters.
    • Tari is based on a blue jay, with the blue hair and a jacket that looks like one.
    • Belle is based on the Phoenix.
  • 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.
  • OOC 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.
  • 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 TASCorp upgraded their armored vans before fainting after crashing straight into one in Fatal Error.
  • 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 TASCorp, and Tari's involvement in Lucinia's death—a major uniting factor for the group—has been exposed to them. Tari then willingly enters TASCorp'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 (Masa pending) 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.
  • Reality Ensues: As discussed in epsode 2 of Season 2, TASCorp upped their security after MD-5's attempt to take them down in the last season, so MD-5 can't just send Belle the encryption key to unlock Sofia's phone.
  • 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 TASCorp's knowledge.
    • Episode 9: Masa used to be a TASCorp 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 TASCorp’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.
    • 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 the bloopers.
      • "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.
    • 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 TAScorp'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.
    • 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.
  • 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 6 months after the events of the season 1 finale.
  • Tournament Arc:
    • The second half of Season 1 is focused on Tari participating in a TASCorp 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 TASCorp.
    • 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 TASCorp 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. Not only does Lucks, the main antagonist up to that point, get Killed Off for Real, but Tari’s creator, Dr. Sheridan, is revealed to be alive and set up as the new Big Bad, implied to have orchestrated Lucks’ murder and making a deal with Evelyn to allow her to get her revenge on Tari... his own creation, mind you.
  • 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.

 
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Deep Mountain Clip

The In-Universe game Tempest has a glitch called the Deep Mountain Clip that causes the game to crash. To perform it, a player must hit the ground at 55 km/h at a 36 degree angle.

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