STORY: The first season of Higurashi, in my opinion, was quite epic. And the second installment, while quite different, does not dissapoint. This time the story's central character is Rika Furude. Rika, along with her friend Hanyuu, atempt to break fate and end Hinamizawa's bloody cycle. Some people might be dissapointed about the lack of gore compared the the first installment. However, instead the story weaves together the seperate arcs of the first season into one story. Questions that were left dangling in the first season are (finally) answered.
In my opinion, it is just beautiful how everything in Higurashi and Hinamizawa comes together. When it is revealed what really happened during the murders and who is truly behind them. I don't really understand why some people think this is a letdown. I think it is done wonderfully. Some people might be annoyed by the fairly predictable ending. But really? Would you want it to end any other way? 9.5/10
ANIMATION: The animation in Kai is still cute, and it is clear that it has improved quite a bit since the first season. I have always had a soft spot for the character designs but I will admit that they aren't mindblowingly beautiful or anything. The animation quality has improved but they are still rather cartoony. There arn't as many gore scenes in Kai but the blood that is shown is still well animated. 7.5/10
SOUND: The opening and ending themes are a bit more peaceful in Kai, but it is fitting. The lyrics match Rika's feelings quite well. I really enjoyed the opening, Naraku no Hana, myself. I think the background music always fits the mood well and there are a few pieces I really enjoy. The voice acting is still done well and suites the characters. 8.5/10
CHARACTERS: Ah, the characters. Characters and plot are what make Higurashi. Don't get me wrong, the main characters in Higurashi still work well. However, keeps them from becoming stale is that more focus is put on the supporting characters that weren't really explained in much detail before. We learn a lot more about Tomitake, Takano, Dr. Irie, and the others. This is a really good thing. But we also learn a lot more about Rika. To me, Rika had always taken more of a backseat role in the first season. At the start of Kai I wasn't very taken with the idea of her being thrust in the main characters role. However, she grew on me very quickly. At first, her pessimism may annoy you, but it is very understandable and fades as the show continues.
I was not as impressed with Hanyuu as I was Rika and the supporting characters. She seemed mostly there for cute factor, but at least she never took away from the show or annoyed me. All the characters in Kai still work very well. 9.5/10
OVERALL: I was a little concerned Kai might be a letdown when I learned there was less gore and insanity. But this is not the case. Some people might not care for Kai, but I am not on of them. Don't let anyone talk you out of it if you have watched the first season. Watch and decide for yourself. You may disagree with me but you sure aren't going to come close to changing my mind. 9/10