I just watched both volumes again and I think I've changed my mind and decided that this is the better of the two. The darker, more realistic tone is a nice contrast to the cartoon-like first volume. This is also reflected in the cinematography which is more muted and washed out in comparison to volume one's bright colours. The saga as a whole is a hugely entertaining, if not quite great epic.
There's that one scene - Bill makes sandwiches for Bibi and they tell Kiddo how Emilio the goldfish died- these five minutes sum up so perfectly why Tarantino deserves every fucking piece of the hype. Vol. 2 is flawless.
The slowly winding tension makes this a better film than the first. It has the confidence to rely on its characters and dialogue, and these carry the film through with ease. The fight scenes are made more concise and more personal, and are all the better for it. Beautiful style and physicality.