When "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni" became the horror anime hit of the century, the "reset" storyline and crazy bloodshed became well known. So another VN, "Umineko no Naku Koro ni" followed. It has the same style, but became less popular and isn't as well-recieved.
Story: The Ushiromiya family is invited to join the head of the family at his mansion on an island. They gather and enter the enviable house. There is a picture of Kinzo's (he's the head of the family) former mistress, Beatrice. However, rumor has it she's a witch-- the Golden Witch, to be precise. Our main character, the perverted Battler, thinks this is BS and goes on with his perverted lifestyle. There is an ominous epitaph, but no one cares--until a disturbing murder takes place. Thus begins one of the greatest cat-and-mouse games of any anime.
Animation: Ranges from okay to stunning. The character designs are actually pretty good and varied; no one looks like anyone else. The eyes are big but it's not too glaring. And, following the "Higurashi" formula, faces distort into grotesque things (cough cough Maria cough). Some things (like Beatrice's portrait and the OP) are gorgeously drawn.
Every female character, save for the loli Maria, has enormous breasts. Of course, Battler doesn't mind, but it is a little awkward to see him try to grope his cousin. Animation is nice and certainly doesn't subtract from the overall feel of the anime.
Sound: The OP is one of the (if not the) best anime opening songs ever. The ending is great, too. The voice acting is good. Some people are less that fantastic, but most are fine. I personally do not mind Beatrice's deep voice, but her laugh gets kind of annoying. Maria's "Uuuu" is ear-grating. Unfortunately, the pronunciation of Beatrice's name sounds more like "Bee-oh-tree-chae," which sounds ridiculous to my American ears. It's kind of a relief when Battler calls her "Beato."
Characters: "Umineko" boasts a large cast and--thank goodness--some development. Unfortunately, there is nary a backstory. I find it to be an excellent cast, but you might disagree.
(Sorry for the crowded picture--I don't think I'll name everyone) Note: U=Ushiromiya. Red-haired boy: U. Battler; blonde girl: Beatrice; upside-down red-haired girl: U. Ange; orange-haired girl w/ "Execute" speech bubble: U. Maria; blonde boy next to Maria: Sakutaro; old man in top left corner: U. Kinzo; orange-haired girl in revealing outfit: Gaap; silver-haired woman near Kinzo and Gaap: Virgilia; black-haired man in front of Virgilia: Ronove; blonde girl near Ronove: U. Jessica; black-haired boy doing high kick: U. George; fancy bunny girls near Jessica and Virgilia: Siesta Sisters; brown-haired girl in bottom of picture: Shannon; black-haired boy next to Shannon: Kanon; girls with purple "hand swords:" Sisters of Purgatory; blonde-haired girl next to Beatrice: Lambdadelta; blue-haired girl on opposite side of Beatrice: Bernkastel; everyone else: the other Ushiromiyas or minor characters.
Oh gosh, that was a mouthful.
Ushiromiya Battler: Guess what? He's not only a pervert! With the intelligence of L and an ace Phoenix Wright impression, he is a formidable opponent for Beatrice. His lengthy explanations make me feel completely stupid, but they are interesting, too.
Beatrice (or Beato, if you want to annoy her): One of my favorite villains of all time, she undergoes true development as a character. She is cunning, beautiful and the perfect "bad girl."
Since they are the main characters, I'll mention the others in passing. Maria is a creepy little girl for whom you can feel sympathy. Rosa is the mother of the century (I mean, BITCH ALERT). Jessica is kind but becomes more deep (a little more deep) later on. George is the kindest badass in existence. Shannon is more than just a soft spoken maid (but I don't want to spoil). Kanon is more than just a servant (but, once again, I don't want to spoil). Eva is one egoistic bitch. Natsuhi is a difficult character to explain--just watch for yourself. Kinzo is a bastard (if I say anything else, I will spoil some of the story). The other adults are just that--other adults. If I talk about Sakutaro, Ronove, Virgilia, Gaap, any of the sisters, Bernkastel or Lambdadelta, I WILL spoil it.
Overall: I'm aware that you probably think I'm WAY overscoring this thing, but I truly enjoyed it. It has the intelligence of "Death Note," the horror and mystery of "Higurashi," the confusion reaching the level of "Paranoia Agent," and it's own characters.
(Oh, and my claimed crack pairing--Battler and Beato.)