It is highly recommended that you watch Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni before watching this to understand Ryukishi's storytelling.
As a huge fan of Higurashi, I immediately jumped at the chance to watch this show and the plot does not fail to dissapoint at all.
The prestigious Ushiromiya family is gathering for their yearly retreat to the island of Rokkenjima where they stay with the head of the family, Kinzo Ushiromiya. We follow the journey of Battler Ushiromiya, who has not had any contact with his extended family for the past 6 years, but has decided to come this particular year. However, a storm blows in and the family are unable to leave the island. As we are introduced to a variety of characters from both the family and the household staff, we hear whispers of a supernatural being, a witch, who lives on the island. But that's all crazy island folk superstition! Until a series of gruesome events occur which leaves the entire family in horror and paranoia. The stage is set; either one of the family members is responsible, or there's an extra person stuck on the island with them.
This concept had me on the edge of my seat. This murder mystery has you arguing with yourself throughout, wondering whether it really was a family member or a servant who's doing all this, or is it in fact a witch. Unfortunately, the show does take a bit of an odd turn, diverting from the entire murder mystery concept to something quite different. It had a strong first few episodes, then kind of makes you tilt your head and question, "What on earth am I watching?" It's a shame really because the playing on people's paranoia when they know they're stuck in a large manshion with a psychopath would have been awesome, but that is not Ryukishi's style at all. All in all, in my opinion, the plot gets overly complicated for the sake of being complicated and I'll admit, I lost interest halfway through. HOWEVER, it is how Ryukishi tells stories that you just have to find out how it ends. You could be sitting there thinking "Oh this person is definitely the culprit" or "Yes, this is how it happened", but you're never 100% sure, so you'll come back to find out. And this is where the plot starts picking up some points. As similar with Higurashi, towards the end, everything kinda starts to fall into place and you feel yourself sucked in to find out how it ends. That, combined with the vast amount of emotion you'll feel for each individual character, the concept lacked but nevertheless was entertaining and kept me coming back. If you watched Higurashi, you will pick up on certain aspects and will understand things alot quicker than those who haven't.
Relatively standard animation quality. What was good is the amount of gore as should be expected from a When They Cry series (even though most of it is censored, but considering the circumstances it's understandable) and also the golden butterflies you see from time to time to indicate the possibility of the supernatural.
The opening is fantastic. It has a very epic and theatrical feel and the melody gives me goosebumps. I never really thought much about the effect the intro music has on an anime, but after watching both Higurashi and Umineko, the music prepares you for what you are about to watch. Perfectly chosen and executed.
Ryukishi has made some fascinating depth with his previous characters in Higurashi and that comes back into play in Umineko. Sort of. We do get some fleshing out and character development along with some emotional attachment, but most of them are just....unlikable. Not in the hate sort of sense, you'll get enough of that when you see Eva and Rosa. Characters like Jessica, George, Kanon and Shannon have the depth of a puddle compared to the ocean of Maria (who reminds me of Satoko from Higurashi, another well crafted character). That and Ryukishi's casual throwing in of extra characters without any hint of introduction, so we have a few strong characters surrounded by shallow, meaningless husks. However, this score is brought up because of the strong cast who may not always be enjoyable to watch, but are expressed in such detail and emotion that the story would have been fine with just the of them rather the ensemble cast we are given.
If you're looking for another Higurashi, Umineko is as close as you're gunna get to it. If you thought Higurashi was complicated and weird, Umineko takes it one step further. All in all, the show was enjoyable and after watching it till the end I didn't feel like I wasted my time. It's unneccasarily overcomplicated story takes away from what could have been a 10/10 to match Higurashi. This is a show that you must watch all the way to the end, but I personally do not think you will enjoy this unless you have watched Higurashi as the story devices makes the show jump around ALOT and Higurashi explains how this jumping around works. Enjoyable, entertaining, but not worth watching twice.