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- Kibaou being the self-serving asshole who always thinks himself as being right decides that everything is the beta testers fault because they don't share information with everyone.
You'd Expect: Him to realize that beta testers with their knowledge are their best chance of clearing the floors and surviving, which Agil already tried to point out.
Instead: He tries to ostracize all beta testers and publicly paint them as the bad guys right after the first floor is cleared.
Result: Kirito is forced to step in and pull a Zero-Approval Gambit by outing himself as not just a beta tester but as a "Beater" (a beta-cheater) and carry the discrimination on his own shoulders, while the rest of the beta testers went into hiding. Overall drastically reducing players' chances of survival since beta testers could no longer share information at the risk of their reputation and safety.
For Additional Irony: Part of the reason Kibaou is being such an asshole is because he blames Diabel's death on Kirito and the other beta testers for withholding information so that someone like Kirito can get the Last Attack Bonus and leave the rest of the players in the dust. This is exactly what Diabel was doing, to the point of trying to get Kibaou to buy Kirito's sword and weaken him in the light novels to raise the chances of succeeding.
You'd Expect: For Kirito to divulge this information, letting Kibaou realize he was used like a sucker and trying to establish a more positive reputation for beta testers. Kirito could also have gone a long way in trying to promote cooperation - who cares who gets what, when everyone has to work together to ever hope to get to Floor 100 in the first place?
Instead: He decides to honor Diabel's death and not divulge this info, letting everyone think Diabel was entirely innocent and died early due to Kirito's fault. While this seems more reasonable in the anime thanks to Diabel having Adaptational Heroism, Kirito himself had little to gain from doing this. Kirito also goes out of his way with his Beater claim to oust himself as some competitive asshole, and basically throws the idea of cooperation out the window.
Result: The Zero-Approval Gambit works. All too well. The resulting stigma has resounding repercussions throughout the rest of the Aincrad arc, the competition for grinding and power grows out of control for a long time which probably causes a number of off-screen deaths, and Diabel dies a misfortunate hero while unwittingly being the catalyst for incidents like Sachi below. Even worse, Kibaou gets to continue unopposed and thinking he was in the right the whole time, which causes him become a full-on corrupt antagonist and absolute bastard in the long-term, only coming short of personally player-killing.
- Kirito is a beta tester, and as a result, knows about in-game content before everyone else does. However, due to the fact that there is a general dislike of beta testers among non-beta testers (which, in of itself would also qualify for an entry on this page, since only ONE person has to clear the game in order for everyone to escape, and it's not mentioned if the person who clears the game gets a prize other than bragging rights), he must keep this a secret.
You'd Expect: For Kirito to share his information, but act as if it was a rumor/leak that he read about on the internet before the game, and convince as many people as possible that they should do as the rumor/leak says.
Or: For Kirito to find some people who do not have a dislike of beta testers, reveal that he is a beta tester to them, and share what he knows, and either have them use that info to decide what actions to take (if they happen to be a leader), or have them propose the idea, and then second the idea that they "proposed" (if they aren't a leader).
Instead: Kirito chooses to keep this fact a secret, causing quite a few people to be killed as a result, including one of his love interests, Sachi.
- Kobatz, the leader of an Aincrad Liberation Front squad, has just received map data from Kirito leading to the Floor 74 boss, the Gleam Eyes. His squad is fatigued and Kirito himself warns them that they'd be no match for the boss, and says not to do anything stupid.
You'd Expect: Kobtaz to listen to Kirito, and wait until a proper boss raid meeting to try to take on the boss.
Instead: He leads his squad to fight the boss anyway. Predictably, he dies and so do two of his soldiers. The only thing that stopped the results from being EVEN MORE disastrous was the fact that Kirito, Klein and Asuna stepped in (and Kirito unveiled his Dual Blades), and even then Kirito himself almost died.
Fairy Dance arc
- Sugou was performing an experiment to use ALO as a means of mind control and planned to be wedded with a comatose Asuna.
You'd Expect: Sugou to keep his mouth shut and masquerade as a harmless friend of the Yuuki family. Even if things go south he probably could have avoided criminal charges had he stayed an anonymous mastermind.
Instead: He made sure that Kirito and Asuna knew that he was evil.
Result: He starts off the entire ALO story arc where Kirito eventually manages to defeat him.
- Sugou hijacking Asuna and over 300 SAO survivors to perform twisted experiments on.
You'd Think: Sugou would choose a private VR server or game where he could go about everything in complete secrecy.
Instead: Greedy as he is, he chooses Alfheim Online, a game with public access and keeps Asuna locked in a cage at the top of the World Tree. Even worse, said World Tree happens to be the object of a mysterious in-game quest, which actively encourages players to investigate it.
Result: Just as said, curious players manage to exploit the system and make it to the top of the tree where they discover Asuna and post a picture of her on a forum, tipping off Kirito that she is trapped in ALO and allowing him to attempt a rescue.
- Sugou has admin access to ALO.
You'd Think: Sugou would program the game so that Asuna cannot leave her cage or that he is the only one who can unlock it.
Instead: He uses keypads for the cage and in-game items (key cards) for administrator access. As a result, Asuna is able to leave her cage for a short time and snatch the keycard, then pass it to Kirito down below.
- Asuna has managed to escape her gilded cage. After avoiding some slug guards by stealth, she is lucky enough to find a terminal from which she can get both her and the experiment subjects offline.
You'd Think: That Asuna would immediately try to do so. After all, she knows the slugs are crawling around and it is a matter of time that they discover her if she stays in the terminal.
Instead: She takes her goddamn time angsting, doubting and pondering instead of just, you know, doing it.
Result: The slugs catch her before she can do it, destroying her chance and condemning all them to continue in Sugou's virtual slavery.
- Kirito has found a clue that Asuna is held in ALO's World Tree. After an erratic series of improbable events through the arc, he finally finds out she is imprisoned in the gilded cage and executes a plan to break in.
You'd Think: Although he might find Asuna physically speaking, he actually doesn't know whether Asuna can get offline from ALO at all, which would be quite counterintuitive given that she is imprisoned. In fact, as he deduces by the card that she already escaped the cage once, it would be natural for him to think that Sugou might have upgraded the security measures in many unknown ways to avoid another escape. In those circumstances, the safest plan for Kirito is, after breaking in, recording his encounter with Asuna (it is improbable there are not such options available in the game, especially because the very clue that opened the arc was an in-game screenshot), possibly even shooting a quick allegation by Asuna that she is being illegally retained against her will by Sugou, and then get offline himself and run to Asuna's dad with the proof. The cops would be called and Sugou's evil plan would end right there.
Instead: It doesn't even cross Kirito's head that he might not be able to find a way to get Asuna offline before being caught himself, which is a massive risk, but he still goes for it nonetheless. Surprise, Yui discovers that Asuna's logout codes are blocked and they have to go to the laboratory's terminal in order to do it, multiplying their risks to run into security.
Even worse: Even knowing the clock is running against them, all while a battle is taking place outside and the chance might fade out in any moment, Kirito and company waste minutes to host a slow, pointless emotional reunion in the cage (Held Gaze included) instead of quickly going to the escape plan whatever it is.
Result: Sugou catches them both right-handed and immobilizes them with gravity magic, which leaves Kirito just as trapped as her. If Kayaba's digital ghost had not been around, Kirito might have been screwed and Asuna might have suffered a Fate Worse than Death in Sugou's hands, and Sugou might not have suffered his incurable eye injury.
Phantom Bullet arc
- Dyne decides to have his player-killing squadron attack another monster-hunter squadron twice. Despite several of his teammates warning him that the group they hit would have likely come prepared already, but he's insistent that they go through with it, confident they would not be concerned with PKers. Sinon spots a cloaked figure as an addition to the squad and is concerned about this new unknown, but Dyne dismisses this and opts to not go along with Sinon's suggestion to target him first.
You'd Expect: Dyne to have considered the possibility that the exact same group may have taken measures on being ambushed again and to listen to Sinon when she points out the addition of the cloaked figure marching with them.
Instead: He ignores Sinon's warnings and assumes the cloaked figure is just carrying their supplies. Turns out that squadron hired a bodyguard with a minigun, who gives a lot of trouble, costs Dyne's life, and very nearly Sinon's who narrowly managed to beat him.
- Kyouji had pretty much everything he could ask for at the end of the arc in theory, given that he had an alibi and the right circumstances to theoretically clear himself of any suspicion of being related to the Death Gun incident if he played his cards right, plus there was no implication that his brother would rat him out either. The only thing really standing between him and Shino was Kirito, who didn't know much of anything about him to go on either.
You'd Expect: He'd try to make sure to keep his Mask of Sanity intact, try to keep his distance for at least the night due to the plan falling through, figure out if Shino really did have feelings for Kirito, and generally play things cool so that his suspicion continues to remain low. If he did that, there was genuinely a chance he would've taken Shino for himself with no one the wiser.
Instead: He immediately visits Shino after the Battle of Bullets tournament at a time when Shino was expecting Death Gun's assistant, and his seeing Kirito hugging a crying Shino in the game mixed a bit of Sanity Slippage with Green-Eyed Monster as he tries to claim Shino as his own. Right then and there along with an explicit Murder-Suicide threat, after Shino starts resisting him due to a particularly creepy expression he made in the midst of the circumstances which let her put two and two together.
Result: Shino fights back, catching him off-guard, and she buys enough time for Kirito to get involved as the two of them eventually overwhelm Kyouji (though not without nearly killing Kirito in the process, only stopped by a convenient Pocket Protector). Kyouji promptly gets a radio bashed over his skull, and he's arrested alongside his brother for multiple murders. For extra measure, Shino still believes Kyouji can be redeemed as a person, and visits him in prison despite what he did, only further cementing that one single moment of pettiness and jealousy without even bothering to know about Shino's own thoughts ruined his entire plan and his life.
- Johnny Black tries to ambush and attack Kirito with a syringe of Succinylcholine, a deadly poison, and aims for his heart. Kirito is armed with an umbrella.
You'd Expect: Kirito to strike at Johnny Black's hand to disarm him of the dangerous weapon or break it. After all, he has been shown to be an experienced Kendo practitioner and is currently wielding a stick-shaped object (in particular one that is used in self-defense schools as an improvised weapon), so it would be shocking that he cannot land a few precise blows with it. Taking the poison out of the fight should be an immediate priority for him, given that Asuna is just behind him and might be hit with the syringe by accident.
Instead: Kirito completely disregards the syringe and decides to answer with an umbrella thrust.
Result: The poison ends up being successfully utilized.
- Still at the previous choice, Kirito has decided to try to take Johnny Black out without addressing his dangerous weapon.
You'd Expect: Kirito to use the umbrella to aim for Johnny's face, groin and/or solar plexus, capitalizing on his much larger reach in order not to leave his own body at the syringe's range. After all, going forward for weak spots is something Kirito does all the day against monsters in the videogames, and his sparring with Suguha in season one shows he can thrust very accurately in real life as well, even with weapons not fit for it (like his kendo shinai, which is designed to club and not to stab). Even if he's acting entirely on reflexes, focusing on the upper body is the most natural human answer against a charging opponent given that we use our arms to push.
Instead: Kirito decides to aim for the thigh, of all things, despite it being basically the opposite of an incapacitating attack (the thigh is the sturdiest part of the leg, which is not exactly a vital part in fencing either) and a move that leaves his own body lower than the lethal weapon in Johnny's hands.
Result: Oddly, Kirito does incapacitate Johnny Black by poking him in the leg with his dull umbrella tip, but his attack choice leaves himself open and allows the attacker to inject him in the heart with his poison, just as Johnny planned.
- When it comes time for the final battle with Quinella the Administrator, it's Kirito, a restored Eugeo, Alice fully knowing the truth of her situation, and the long-planning Cardinal against one extremely overpowered person. Cardinal even explicitly points out that it's 4 to 1, though this is hindered by the Sword Golem of Quinella's creation made to even the odds.
You'd Think: The cast either go in with a plan or develop an Indy Ploy on the fly at the very least, using the teamwork and quick planning they've demonstrated throughout the entire arc up to this point, seeing as most other plans have failed and now they have two very powerful foes to go up against.
Instead: Cardinal realizes the Sword Golem is made of people, which she cannot fight or harm technically speaking, and forces Quinella to promise she won't harm her accomplices if she lets herself be killed instead.
Result: Cardinal gets blasted repeatedly to a fatal point while everyone stands there and does nothing.
For Extra Stupidity: The entire point of this is a Senseless Sacrifice because everyone fights her immediately after anyway.
- The previous stupidity is doubled up by the immediate battle thereafter, where Cardinal's dying actions let Eugeo turn into a sword. He fights the Sword Golem and wins - and then fights Quinella.
You'd Think: Alice and Kirito would finally move in to help Eugeo after such a horrible scene prior, and they would actually occupy Quinella in a way that allows him to capitalize on some opportunity, any opportunity, to deal a severe blow.
Instead: Alice helped defend Eugeo's transformation and Kirito when he was suffering a Heroic BSoD over Cardinal's death, but they still just stand there and let Eugeo fight on his own.
Result: Eugeo becomes Half the Man He Used to Be in the process of removing one of Quinella's arms, Alice gets knocked out, and Kirito ends up having to fight Quinella solo besides bringing Eugeo's sword with him.
- Quinella gets a moment of her own right before , that would ultimately cost her in the long run. Chudelkin is dispatched fairly quickly by the heroes before she fights them.