It’s not really possible to say with certainty just yet, but I wonder of this “Gora Academy” arc wasn’t a luxury the anime couldn’t afford. To be blunt, I don’t think it was very good – certainly not the equal of the first two three-episode arcs. Pacing is obviously a very serious issue with Kaminai, given that it effectively distilled two cours worth of material into two three-episode blocks, and every minute spent in Gora Academy was a minute that could have been spent somewhere else – somewhere, potentially, more interesting.
What we don’t know yet, of course, is whether this arc was crucial in setting up events in the final four episodes, which is certainly possible. But this storytelling approach is laced with inherent problems. We’ve already seen two finale episodes which had the makings of emotional powerhouses lose a lot of steam because of hyperspeed developments in the last ten minutes of each – developments which were hardly foreshadowed at all in some cases. As “Gora” was even more condensed, the entire arc had a sense of detachment to it – there was certainly no time for any of the new characters to have their own arcs, so a couple of them got dramatic speeches as a kind of rapid-rise instant version of real character development. The results are pretty predictable.
The other issue with “Gora Academy” is that it rests almost squarely on Ai’s shoulders, all the more so as a result of the lack of depth from the arc-specific cast. Yuri and Scar are hardly Hamlet and Ophelia but compared to Ai they – and, crucially, the actors playing them – are a model of depth and subtlety. “Ortus” was also blessed with quite an interesting cast of its own and a rather good story that did a lot to advance the mythology of Kaminai’s world. If “Gora” did the same in any way it was seemingly with the interesting but hardly crucial notion of a dying school system, leaving one so desperate for students that they’re willing to imprison them for the government funds they bring. But the characters themselves, and their individual back-stories, don’t appear to have added anything consequential, and they certainly didn’t engage me emotionally.
However, there’s one thread that sticks out from the rest, and that was Alis’ mention of his plans to “save the world by destroying it”. In order to try and explain this to Ai he frames it in terms of a classic philosophical treatise – that there are two worlds, not one. There are many different flavors of this idea but he presents it in simplest possible terms (probably best considering his audience, Ai) – that there’s a “real” world which will exist even when mankind is gone, and a world that exists only as our perception. Ai, to her credit, picks up on the nut of this concept – it means that everyone is living in a unique world, defined by their own perception. That might just be a bit of a theme with the Gora students and their various peculiarities, and it seems very likely that Alis’ plans are going to be part of what comes next. Perhaps the most direct explanation is correct, that he plans to save the only true world as he sees it, the objective one that exists beyond human perception, by taking humans out of the equation. That at least could be an interesting development born of this arc, and there’s also a last-minute development to deal with, in that Yuri has apparently left Scar behind (whatever that means).