Wow. I actually enjoyed that. I'd want to watch the next episode, which I couldn't have imagined before with Higurashi.
Season 1 showed us everything going bad. Gruesomely, repellently bad. We watch multiple incompatible versions of the same small period of time in a village called Hinamizawa. It's like horror taken to another level, showing the future as a multiple-choice exercise in killing and madness.
After that, in Season 2, our heroes fight back and work out how to win.
To be honest, I'd been having trouble imagining how Higurashi could continue after Season 1. The explanations mean that you can't just do yet more madness. This assumption was both right and wrong. Higurashi finds new directions to go in, arguably changing its genre. It also explains everything. This includes:
1. Stuff you hadn't thought of.
2. Hidden layers you'd never spotted, despite clues that with hindsight were clearly and honestly presented.
3. Supernatural/SF elements. (Their origins are left mysterious enough for it to be unclear whether this is SF, fantasy or what. However their plot effects are huge.)
Ep.1 is an epilogue to the Atonement story arc (eps.22-26 of Season 1). It's been thirty years since the poison gas attack that killed everyone. It's mostly a big info-dump of conspiracy theories and truly ghastly speculation. The Three Great Houses' research, for instance.
The "Disaster Awakening" arc is surprisingly light and goofy. Higurashi arcs have always started with silly anime antics that lead into something darker, but this arc stays wacky almost throughout. The "zombie tag" game in ep.2 is funny (but also profound and a metaphor for the show). The baseball in ep.3 teeters on the edge of stupidity. Ep.4 has Keiichi's food-eating challenge.
Underneath all that, though, is Satoko and Rika. The horror ending is understated, by Higurashi standards, but this arc wasn't really about the kind of horror we're used to. It's more about uncovering secrets and learning the truth. Rika is us.
The "Massacre" arc goes on for an extraordinary number of episodes, for Higurashi. This is because our heroes are starting to work things out. The show's no longer about finding another gruesome route to death, but about finding a route that avoids it. It's about fighting fate. This is cool. It's about turning antagonists into allies and finding the right way to save a vulnerable friend.
However there will also be revelations. Your view of Higurashi's world will be turned upside-down, after which the last episode is as evil as anything in the entire show. Those people aren't insane. They're doing it deliberately. Bloody hell.
After that comes the "Festival Accompanying" arc, which lasts almost half the season. We see what makes a villain tick and the gang makes an unlikely new friend. We see what happened to people we'd never thought about, having always blandly been told that they were dead. This show is brilliant at making you realise you'd never noticed something it had hidden in plain sight. I'd never really thought of SPOILER as having had parents. We see adults being convinced of the impossible. We see how to make a miracle. (This involves simple ingredients, but it's hard to make them all happen. They're faith, trust and co-operation.)
Ultimately, it has the right ending. (The postscript is a bit mysterious, but there's a plausible answer on the internet if you google for it.)
(a) the Yamainu aren't particularly competent, are they? There's an explanation for that, though. They're a SPOILER, not an elite combat force. That would be the Banken.
(b) I laughed in the last episode at the sarcastic villainous response to "I'll put you through a fate worse than death". No, SPOILER, she means it. That's a Sonozaki you're talking to.
(c) Are those horns? No one ever asks or pays them any attention... but they're horns, aren't they?
This show is a fascinating exercise in storytelling. It's a unique kind of horror, while also reproducing the "try try try again" nature of the game more interestingly than I've seen anywhere else. (Second place would go to Steins;Gate.) It has quite a lot of episodes, but I think you need them all to build up the full weight of this world and our heroes' struggle against it. Season 1 on its own will be almost unwatchable for most people, but I'd still give a strong recommendation to anyone watching both seasons together.
I don't think I'll be rewatching it in a hurry, though.