Imagine everything Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was not, and you've got Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. While Higurashi Kai certainly ties up a number of much needed loose strings causing incoherency issues within the first season, it ultimately degrades the series into meaningless tripe. It seems that the first season followed the original games/manga to the tee, but the second takes on extremely, and I emphasize extremely, watered down adaptations of the original storyline's ending. There is no gore or horror present save for perhaps one or two very light scenes, and the violence is toned down substantially as well, as most of what's present is almost comical in nature.
Needless to say, I was immensely disappointed with Higurashi Kai, as it ended exactly like most anime intended for young children rather than an honorable, intellectual dramatic masterpiece. Save for perhaps one or two minor incidents, all the duplicitous aspects of the main cast of characters' personalities vanish, and it becomes a real chore to convince yourself you're watching the same show. The final two "answer" arcs also happen to be twice the length of the prior six arcs in season one, and are subsequently packed full of filler-esque material which really causes the series to drag in many places - completely opposite of the first season, where constant angst and tension kept you on the edge of your seat and constantly looking over your shoulder while you watched.
Ending and conclusion aside, the sole purpose of Higurashi Kai is to provide the viewer with the story behind everything that occurs in the first season, and on that note it succeeds. Rika takes a much more central role in the second season, explaining many of her mysterious talents such as her vast score of knowledge and her prophetic capabilities; which, in essence, explains who Oyashiro-sama is and what his curse entails with rather great detail. Again, though, the enormous, anti-climactic ending dwarfs the importance of such revelations, as it sucks the very life out of the drama they were supposed to be explaining. While it provides closure, this closure is quite poor, and as such I have a hard time swallowing the series as a whole.
As far as color vibrancy goes, Higurashi Kai got a substantial boost in quality, but that's about the only noticeable difference in quality. I made a point not to increase the animation score, though, since the total lack of dramatic emphasis took away the first season's exemplary use of facial expressions to convey morbid atmospheres. The additions really didn't do much for me, especially with the huge abundance of stills in most of Higurashi Kai's action scenes.
Without a doubt, my favorite aspect of Higurashi Kai is its second, absolutely superb opening theme. Aside from that, though, the musical score remains virtually identical as the first season, and the voice actors again do a great job, though their roles are made less intensive.
I was really quite flustered with how the characters panned out. For obviously having severe paranoia issues, Keiichi seems perfectly normal for most of Higurashi Kai, a far cry from the neurotic xenophobe who has quite a difficult time distinguishing reality between the varying Himizawa worlds in the first season; Rena's random, sporadic violent tendencies disappear entirely, and I hardly see her lift a finger during the first half of the series; Shion displays one instance of her blood thirst, but it's tamed rather quickly and her character immediately seems to revert after with no future signs; the list goes on. The characters simply didn't carry the same feel, and that really gave me pause when trying to rationalize them in the context of the second season. In the first season each of the characters suffered from very fragile and delicate personality problems, and the fact that these problems cease to exist in the latter arcs is simply baffling.
Unfortunately, because of how Higurashi's first season pans out, Higurashi Kai is a must watch to understand the progression of the story. Perhaps I'm overreacting a bit to how much I disliked Higurashi Kai, as I did enjoy the first fourteen episodes, but the last arc was simply atrocious. All in all a settling sequel to the first season, but don't expect to have your brain played with in any sinister fashion - you'll just end up utterly disappointed.
It is the year 1983; and in the village of Hinamizawa, on the night of the cotton drifting festival and in the days following it, a series of deaths occurs. The only hope for the village and its inhabitants is the shrine maiden Furude Rika who, with the help of her invisible partner Hanyuu, is able to travel back in time and alter the events that led to disaster. Unfortunately, regardless of what changes are made, each voyage ultimately ends with the death of Rika and many of her friends. But when Rika’s friends start remembering things that happened to them in previous worlds and take steps to avoid the same outcomes, Rika realizes that their chances of survival have never been better. Can she really challenge and defeat fate itself?
Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!