Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

IMPORTANT: The content of this page is outdated. If you have checked or updated this page and found the content to be suitable, please remove this notice.

Let us tell the story of a certain man. The tale of a man who, more than anyone else, believed in his ideals, and by them was driven into despair.

There exists a plane outside of human concepts, and within there is the Throne of Heroes. Here, the records of famous (and infamous) individuals throughout history are kept, to be used as eternal guardians of mankind. The definition of "hero" is broad -- even the most ruthless and heartless are the heroes of their own tales.

Centuries ago, three families -- Einzbern, Makiri, Tohsaka -- conducted a dark and bloody ritual; Heaven's Feel, the Holy Grail War of Fuyuki. A battle between seven magi, competing for a chance to wish upon a "Holy Grail", the 726th branded by The Church. Heroic Spirits from the Throne are summoned and bound to the material world, becoming "Servants" to their summoner "Masters". To keep their true names hidden, the seven Servants are sorted into one of seven Classes: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin. In addition, each Servant is armed with the mysteries that symbolize their legend -- Noble Phantasms, legendary armaments and abilities, the very concepts that embody their fame.

As each Servant falls, the Holy Grail receives their power, until only one remains and the Grail is able to manifest in the physical world to grant the winners' wishes.

Fate/Zero, the prequel to famous Visual Novel Fate/stay night, is the story of Heaven's Feel IV. From the viewpoints of the Servants and their Masters, it shows the War in all its ruthlessness -- greed, ambition, murder, betrayal; the weak succumb, the strong live on to see another battle.

Kiritsugu Emiya grew up wanting to be a hero who could save anyone and everyone... but he quickly realized that for every person he saved, another had to die. The only way to be a hero is to act for the good of all humanity; to destroy the factor that will, in turn, destroy even more humans if left unchecked. And if that factor is humans themselves, then he will kill every single one who threatens the peace of another. Despised, feared, branded as a murderer, a contract killer, a hitman -- still he goes on, believing that this is the best way to serve humanity.

Due to his immense skill, he is taken in by the Einzberns as an honorary family member. However, the Einzberns' real motive is to send him to Fuyuki, his old home, to participate in the Fourth Heaven's Feel on their behalf. Although he loves his new family--his wife, Irisviel, and their daughter, Ilya--he knows his battle is not yet over. As one of the seven Masters, he must return to Japan to obtain the Holy Grail of Fuyuki for the Einzberns.

Fate/Zero is a collaboration, a series of four illustrated novels written by Gen Urobuchi (of Nitro+ fame) and illustrated by Takashi Takeuchi of TYPE-MOON, under the direction of Kinoko Nasu. Based in the Nasuverse, it refers to concepts and ideas of other Nasu works, mainly Fate/stay night. The first volume was released in December 2006, while the last was released in December 2007. It was first adapted into a Drama CD, with music by ZIZZ Studio (composers for the majority of Nitro+ works). A manga adaptation has begun serialization, and a TV series (by Ufotable of Kara no Kyoukai fame, with music by Yuki Kajiura, and starring the Drama CD cast) aired its first season in Fall 2011 and will continue in Spring 2012.

The anime will be streamed for free with subtitles in eight different languages by Aniplex on Nico Nico as it airs. The latest episode can be found here, and previous episodes are available on Crunchyroll.

The Character Sheets can be found here, for tropes specific to the cast.

All four volumes of the novels have been fully translated by Baka-Tsuki. You may find them here.

Since this is a prequel series to Fate/stay night, expect major Late Arrival Spoilers for that series as well, as Fate/zero ends with a Foregone Conclusion. You Have Been Warned.

Tropes used in Fate/Zero include:
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: While Kariya isn't going to land any modeling gigs any time soon, the Body Horror inflicted on his body by the worms in the anime looks like a bad skin rash in comparison to his appearance in the light novels, where he resembles Two-Face from Batman.
  • Adaptation Expansion: At one point, one of Rin's friends is kidnapped by Uryu and Caster. Not realizing the danger, Rin decides to go look for her. In the book, Rin nearly enters their lair before being attacked by one of Caster's monsters; Kariya rescues her and takes her home. In the anime, Rin enters their lair, confronts Uryu, and actually manages to break Caster's hypnosis on the children before going back outside and getting attacked by a monster, where Kariya rescues her as in the book. Rin's successful intervention in the anime means that all the children are rescued and return home; the same can't be said for the book.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Most of it, anyway:
    • Kariya has loved Aoi, who is both oblivious and married, since they were both young.
    • Maiya has feelings for Kiritsugu, but acknowledges that Irisviel is the woman he loves.
    • Caster might count, since his "Jeanne" doesn't respond to his feelings largely because she's not Jeanne. The specifics of Gilles' feelings before Jeanne's death is currently unclear.
    • In the backstory, Kirei's nameless wife was devoted to a man who was literally incapable of loving her.
    • Kayneth sincerely loves Sola-ui and does whatever he can to make the best of their Arranged Marriage, but she'll have none of it. Sola-ui loves her fiancé's Servant[1], who does not reciprocate her feelings. And if loyalty is a type of love, Lancer rejects Sola because he's devoted to his Master Kayneth despite receiving only disdain (at best) in return.
  • All Myths Are True: All Heroic Spirits are eligible for summoning, as long as they are remembered in legends. Armaments and abilities which are symbolic of the legend (for example, King Arthur and Excalibur) become the Noble Phantasms of the Servant.
  • All There in the Manual: The original game, side material, information volumes, etc.
  • Anachronic Order: The second episode detailing Kiritsugu's backstory freely hops between him as a child and him as a young man.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The true purpose of the Heaven's Feel ritual is to recreate the Third Magic, the eponymous Heaven's Feel, which deals with immortality of the soul.
  • Anime Catholicism
  • Anyone Can Die: All the Servants need to die to power the Grail, but the easiest way to take out the Servant is to cut the power source (ie. the Master). There Can Be Only One, after all.
    • There is a second purpose to this, as well: if a Servant is killed before the Master is, the Master's Command Spells revert to the Grail, which can reassign them to another Master. And those who were selected previously as Masters get preferential treatment.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Grail of Fuyuki.
  • Artificial Human: A homunculus is used as the vessel of the Holy Grail.
  • Badass Army: Rider's EX-ranked Noble Phantasm.
  • Badass Cape: Rider, but his design is just Badass in general. Just look at the guy!
  • Badass Family
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Being the hitman he is, Kiritsugu certainly looks the part of a professional, but the real standout is Saber in her black suit.
  • Badass Longcoat: Kiritsugu
  • The Bad Guy Wins
  • Bait and Switch Credits: The opening sequence features a clip where Saber faces off with Assassin. In the story proper, these two never come to blows.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: Used as a vampire infection vector by Odd Vorak, a Dead Apostle magus encountered in Kiritsugu's backstory.
  • Bigger Bad: Ultimately, the Grail itself, corrupted by Angra Mainyu. Its corruption is what likely causes it to choose Kirei as a Master despite him having no interest in it, or even knowing what it was up to that point, simply because it's attracted to Kirei's hidden evil desires. It also likely had a hand in choosing a serial killer as the last Master when there were no more volunteers.
    • On a lesser note, Zouken Matou is one. Even in Fate Stay Night, he doesn't do much until the final route of the game. He does, however, continue to observe how things are proceeding in this war despite not directly participating.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The only white in this series comes from Ilya, Rin, and the children Caster and his master have a habit of kidnapping and subjecting to a Fate Worse Than Death. Children Are Innocent indeed. Irisviel might count as well.
  • Bland-Name Product: There's a "Ramasonic" brand Jumbotron in episode 12 of the anime.
  • Blood From the Mouth
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The manga adaptation is making full use of its run in a genuine Seinen magazine, some of the explicit brutal things narrated in the novels (but not heavily shown in the anime, just implied) like Uryuu and Caster's "fun" times of torture and general sickening actions, are shown in great detail page by page in the manga; in fact, it is being taken Up to Eleven via Adaptation Expansion by giving more background on what Uryuu likes to do with his victims. Not to mention graphically portraying young Sakura's brutal rape by the Matou Crest Worms.
  • Calling Your Attacks: If a Noble Phantasm has to be manually activated, its "true name" must be called. Doesn't apply for those that are always active.
  • The Cameo: Episode 18 of the anime highlights Kiritsugu's backstory where his childhood friend Shirley inadvertently causes an epidemic of Dead Apostles on the island. Among the responding magi sent by the Magus Association? Fire magus Cornelius Alba.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Not totally surprising, considering outside of Saber and Irisviel all the major characters are male. Lancer, Gilgamesh, Waver, and Ryuunosuke stand out as particularly Bishonen, although Kiritsugu and Kirei are no slouches in the Mr. Fanservice department. Pretty much all of the Masters and Servants have their devoted Estrogen Brigade, even Caster and especially Kariya.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The magic circle Irisviel and Saber drew in the shed of the operations base Kiritsugu provided them (for the purpose of aiding Iri in sustaining herself) will end up saving Shirou's skin from Lancer ten years later by serving as the summoning circle for Saber.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Belief is a powerful weapon in Nasuverse; the more people believe in something, the more power it has. Accordingly, the more well-known the legend, the more powerful the Servant. However, the older the mystery is, the more powerful it is, which offsets if it is not as famous.
  • Cliff Hanger: The first season of the anime ends as Saber, Rider, and Lancer are about to engage Caster and his Cthulhu knockoff.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Played straight, but mostly averted. Kiritsugu is the incarnate of this, with Kotomine one level below him. Most mages, however, have too much pride/ego to realize that a mage can die from non-magical methods or from a surprise attack in the middle of a warzone.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Subverted to Hell and back during the fight between Assassin and Rider.
    • Played straight with the assassins themselves. There are dozens of them, and they are probably the weakest Servant in the war. They are assassins, after all--not warriors.
  • Conspicuous CG: Various examples of architecture, vehicles, and attack effects and Berserker as a whole in the anime.
    • The effect with Berserker is intentional due to limitations of animation. Berserker had to be animated within his haze, which would look awkward in traditional animation.
  • Continuity Nod: Since this takes place just ten years before Fate/stay night, far too many to list. Let's just say that many events in the Fourth had consequences for the Fifth.
  • Contractual Immortality: Everyone that doesn't get killed off pretty much only survives for obvious reasons.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Ancient Sumerian flying machine vs. F-15 fighter jet-turned-Noble Phantasm. It is every bit as glorious as it sounds.
  • The Corruption: The blackness flowing from the corrupted Grail, a manifestation of "all the world's evil".
  • Crazy Prepared: Kiritsugu (he... really took a lot of things into account, to say the least) and Kotomine (seriously? Kevlar-reinforced priests' robes??).
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Tokiomi vs Kariya is very one-sided. One is a man who has spent a lifetime learning to master his craft. The other is a runaway relying on ad-hoc sorcery implanted in him by his sadistic ancestor who is too berserk with pain and rage to use even that properly. Guess which one wins without having to hardly lift a finger.
    • Before that there was Iskander vs. Assassin. All of the Assassins, counting in the dozens. Cue Ionian Hetaroi: Army of the King, and the fight becomes such a ridiculously one-sided slaughter the author doesn't even bother telling you about it though in the anime we see the Assassins either attempt to run away, fight to their deaths, or directly face their deaths without fighting. There is a reason it is the Page Image in the Anime and Manga section.
  • Darker and Edgier: Lampshaded in the authors' notes section. Think this is a Grail War which mucks around with "women and children"? Haha no.
  • Death From Above: The anime has Gilgamesh raining down his Noble Phantasms from the sky like beams of shining light, invoking the image of a god passing judgement on the unworthy.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Kiritsugu's special bullets containing his own powdered ribs, which he uses sparingly with his Contender.
  • Doomed by Canon: Pointed out early on that you probably don't want to get too attached to anyone. In fact, anyone who has seen or read anything about the Fate/Stay Night story, knows how the events of Zero had to end. By the end, the only people left that were participating are Kiritsugu Emiya, Kirei Kotomine, Waver Velvet, Gilgamesh, and Saber from among the main cast, and after the FIFTH Holy Grail War, Waver is the last remnant of Fate/Zero who is guaranteed to survive, although he wasn't anywhere even close (location-wise) to the events of the 5th Grail War.
  • Downer Ending: Kiritsugu sacrifices his wife and trusted partner to achieve his goal (World Peace), only to find that the Grail is corrupted and, thus, that he has to destroy it (in the process, losing access to his daughter and leaving her to be raised by her mother's evil family), and even this does not prevent the Grail War from repeating itself ten years later. Further, his arch-nemesis is still alive, and outlives him to threaten his son (and daughter) in the next war. Meanwhile, Sakura is still stuck with Zouken, completely abandoned except by Rin (whose concern for her is limited and does not override the rules their father Tokiomi set down). Rin herself is now an orphan. Kariya dies having failed to save Sakura, and actually makes her situation worse by acting as a reminder to her of what happens to people who oppose her grandfather or try to run away. All of the major villains (except Caster and his master) are still alive, and essentially no-one else survives, except Kiritsugu, who dies as a result of the corruption caused when he destroyed the Grail. The only non-evil master that survives the war and has a fairly happy ending is Waver. Whilst, if one takes Fate/stay night into account, his adoptive son fixes some of these things, Sakura isn't guaranteed to be saved and nor is Ilya, and none of the dead people (Aoi, Kariya, Kiritsugu, Iri) can be brought back.
  • Dual-Wielding: Diarmuid uses dual spears, though not always at the same time. The Black Knight's tendency to grab whatever is on hand also leads to this, and at one point he dual-wields sub-machine guns!
  • Dungeon Bypass: Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald is in the thirty-second floor of a hotel--his bounded field covers twenty-four floors (even going over the drainage pipes), there are three magical furnaces for his use, and he has ten summoned evil spirits and apparitions--a veritable magus' fortress. How does Kiritsugu deal with this? Apply a small amount of C4 to the supports and bring the entire place down.
  • Dying as Yourself Inverted. Horribly! Irisviel dies physically when Kirei becomes upset at hearing her and Kiritsugu's motives for fighting, and he strangles her as well as snaps her neck. Her mind/consciousness passes into the Holy Grail where it is more or less consumed by the dark entity possessing it, thus in that moment the real Irisviel was dead and gone for good. However, the Holy Grail took possession or perhaps took to using her mental imprint as a means of communicating with others such as when Kiritsugu was in contact with the grail, the Grail used Iris' voice, image, and memories to speak with him. Once Kiritsugu figures out exactly what the Grail intends to do to grant his wish, he kills the Grail's stolen mental embodiment of Iris too.
  • Dying Dream: Irisviel has an extremely creepy one.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Summoned by Caster. Normally, a magus only summons something of a certain level of strength or they can't control it, so at first they don't understand... until they realize the Caster couldn't care less if the horror he summoned is under control or not.
  • Enemy Mine: Crops up several times during the early part of the Holy Grail War. Saber and Lancer are the most common allies, whilst Caster is the most common target.
  • Episode Zero: The Beginning
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Servants are referred to by their Class, even when their real names are revealed. Berserker, whose identity is hidden until the last novel, is dubbed the "Black Knight".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: There's a 24-hour hotel in Fuyuki called 24-Hour Hotel in Fuyuki.
  • Exact Words: "Killing you is impossible now... for me, that is." Cue Maiya gunning down Kayneth and Sola with a Steyr AUG.
  • Faceless Evil Minions: Bluebeard's summoned tentacle-things from Another Dimension, literally without faces.
  • Fan Nickname
    • Ganondorf: Zero!Rider, for being a large swarthy redhead.
      • Also known to some as Broskander the Great.
    • GARserker: for obvious reasons
  • Fatal Flaw: Quite a few, but most outwardly obvious are Kiritsugu's ideals and Arturia's regret over her country's fall.
  • Female Gaze: Episode 8 provides viewers with a lingering shot of Kotomine's well-sculpted ass. And Kariya is naked in his dream in episode 20, although what happens in the dream and what we see of him after he wakes up is pure Fan Disservice.
  • Firing One-Handed
  • Foregone Conclusion: Fate/Zero is written under the assumption that the reader has already finished Fate/stay night. A fairly early author's note warns that you really shouldn't be expecting a happy ending, and that the writer will probably have to kill his entire cast in order to fit his ending into the timeline established in the previous story.
    • To wit: Iskander fails to save Arturia from her ideals, Kiritsugu fails to completely destroy the Grail, Kariya loses the war and therefore cannot stop Zouken from torturing Sakura and Gilgamesh sticks around until the next war after being doused in the mud of the tainted Grail. All the Servants die except Gilgamesh and Saber as well as all the Masters except Waver Velvet and Kotomine because Kiritsugu is badly cursed.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Unlike Fate/stay night, which was written primarily from Shirou's point of view, Fate/Zero is written in third person omniscient, following the stories of all the Masters, and as a consequence, frequently leaves The Hero Kiritsugu Out of Focus.
  • Functional Hermetic Magic: Fate/Zero expands the Canon considerably regarding magecraft concepts.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: A strange version, considering that it's not a video game, but the novel still uses the stat sheets found in Fate Stay Night. Several of the passive skills and stats listed there have an effect on the plot, such as Saber's "Riding", Lancer's "Eye of the Mind (True)", Rider's "Divinity", Archer's "Independent Action" and Caster's "Mental Pollution".
  • Gender Flip: King Arthur, young lady.
  • Genetic Memory: Irisviel.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Just as Gen's previous work Puella Magi Madoka Magica was a deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre so Fate/Zero explores the Shonen genre. What does it take to be a hero of justice? What does it mean to be true to oneself? And just how far would you be willing to go to find out?
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Rider charges into Saber's castle without any prior warning... and invites Saber to go drinking with him and Gilgamesh.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Caster's segments in the anime are heavily censored, at least in the regular broadcast. In the novel, the author goes into some description that's not too gory, but just enough to give an idea of what's happening to the children. The manga adaptation is not so kind, giving us full view of wacky contraptions like the "human umbrella".
  • Grand Finale: The previous three volumes slowly but steadily killed off the cast, so naturally, the fourth is a Wham! Episode.
  • Gratuitous English: And Latin, and in the first episode of the anime, Armenian.
  • Gratuitous German: At one point Rin opens one of her father's grimoires, which angrily chants German at her.
  • Guns Akimbo: Kiritsugu dual-wields his Contender and Calico. Also Berserker later, with two MP5 submachine guns.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played with. Because Magi have a tendency to view technology with disdain and consider it inferior to their own magecraft, Kiritsugu uses it against them to great effect. On the other hand, Kayneth's magecraft protected him from Claymore mines, a skyscraper collapsing around him, and automatic fire at point-blank range, while Kotomine can outright dodge bullets.
  • Gun Porn: Gen Urobuchi gave a whole lot of detail to the weapons that Kiritsugu uses. To wit, Kiritsugu's weapons are a Calico M950 sub-machine gun, a Walter WA2000 sniper rifle (with night scope and heat vision sensors), and his Mystic Code the Thompson Contender, customized with his Origin Bullets. The anime also shows other weapons in a couple of lock and load montages.
  • High Altitude Battle: The absolutely glorious battle between Gilgamesh and Berserker near the end of the war is this.
  • Hope Spot: Caster deliberately gives one to children before killing them.
  • I Have Your Wife: Kiritsugu and Maiya successfully pull this off in a way that would make any villain proud.
  • Immune to Bullets: Servants in general, except when Berserker turns the bullets into Noble Phantasms. Kayneth's Mystic Code initially had the same effect, but Kiritsugu managed to get around that pesky problem.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Berserker, whose Noble Phantasm is to literally turn whatever he picks up as a Noble Phantasm, from the discarded Noble Phantasms of other Servants to pieces of a sliced-apart telephone pole. And at one point, he even uses an F-15J from the JASDF investigating a massive fight between the Servants. When the jet crashed, he ripped off the entire M61 Vulcan unit and fired it braced against his hip. In mid-air.
  • Inept Mage
    • All three of the traditional mages (Kayneth, Tokiomi, and Waver) fulfill this to some extent. Kayneth is so prideful as a magus that he utterly failed to consider mundane methods being effective against him, and his disdain for Kiritsugu's firearms is what does him in. Tokiomi had a great plan to win the war but failed to anticipate the treachery of his apprentice, who was admittedly almost as surprised. Waver just doesn't understand what he's getting himself into, and as such would have been outclassed by the other Masters even if their Servants weren't involved.
    • All three fail to take into consideration the personalities of their Servants: Kayneth doesn't understand Lancer's Undying Loyalty or his chivalric code, Tokiomi's failure to understand Archer's ego eventually leads to his death by Kirei, and Waver just doesn't have the strength of will to control someone like Rider. Contrast Kiritsugu, whose plan to use Irisviel as a proxy Master makes her and Saber a great team-up, and Kirei, who gets to know Archer on a personal level.
    • Kariya, in his desperate attempts to win the war with last-minute preparations that are greatly taxing to him, also qualifies.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted hard by Caster and his master.
    • Also averted, although in a non-fatal way, by Zouken with regards to Sakura, the abuse of whom (starting from the age of four) is described in quite a lot of detail (although it's not explicitly shown). In fact, it is a major plot point (since Kariya's reason for fighting is to free her).
  • Info Dump: These pop up from time to time. Particularly in the first episode of the anime adaptation.
  • Ironic Echo: In the third book, Saber in the narration admits to herself that Kiritsugu is the most suitable Master to receive the Holy Grail (upon realization of how despite his methods, his wish and intention for world peace is genuine). In the fourth book, Angra Mainyu (in the shape of Irisviel) says this exact thing to him... and this line takes a much darker meaning in this context as it refers to his method of saving people by killing other people, because the tainted Grail's method of granting wishes is likewise destruction and murder.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Made more explicit in the novel, when it was explained how Kiritsugu convinces the bellboy that he was Kayneth and that he and Kayneth's wife Sola-Ui have already evacuated.
  • Killed Off for Real: The majority of the cast.
  • Lampshade Hanging: From the Einzbern Consultation Room specials: "You probably think Assassin is just there to get killed."
  • Laser Hallway: The defenses around Tokiomi's atelier, despite being more like invisible rotating cages of magic, invoke all the contortions and careful maneuvers that come along with this trope.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Caster and Ryuunosuke's discussion on the nature of God. It appears that Gen Urobuchi is aware of his reputation.
  • Lighter and Softer: The anime works hard to avert this, like soft blurring or making clever use of camera focus on the most questionable scenes, but there are some things that just couldn't be shown in great detail, Uryuu and Caster's moments with their victims are the most notable examples, the most sickening lines in the novels did not make its way to the anime (though that's not necessarily a bad thing considering...)
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: One overseer, seven Masters, seven Servants, plus various assistants, family members, etc.
  • Meaningful Name: Alimango Island. If you know the meaning of Alimango (Crab), then you're either someone who's fluent with Tagalog or someone with Philippine roots.
  • Mind Control Eyes: Caster makes Ryunosuke a bracelet that allows him to easily abduct children; the effects of the enchantment naturally involve this trope.
  • Mood Whiplash: In a weird way. The death count has been climbing up, Kotomine's schemes are beginning to play out, the great, depressing finale is already building up, Irisviel has been kidnapped and Saber is desperately trying to recover her...and Saber's mind, and by extension, the author, keeps engaging in Description Porn about how awesome Saber's motorcycle is.
  • Names To Run Away From Really Fast Quite the list from Zero... Let's see: Kirei Kotomine, Gilgamesh, Zouken Matou, Caster/Bluebeard/Gille Du Reis, Ryuunosuke Uryuu, Kiritsugu Emiya, Angra Mainyu/"All the Evils of the World", and... The Holy Grail.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Kiritsugu's backstory, the vampire Odd Vorak goes down oddly easily... but this simply releases all the bees he was hiding within his body, turning the entire plane cabin into a bloodbath.
  • Night Vision Goggles: Kiritsugu uses the thermal scope on his rifle to observe Masters who, because of their Magic Circuits, have a different heat signature. His Walther WA2000 has some kind of dual-scope setup, with one night-vision and the other thermal.
  • Off-Model: The largest complaint for Episode 11, which is due in part to much of the episode's budget going into animating Ionioi Hetairoi.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Claimed by Lancer as he saves Saber from Caster's monsters.
  • The Other Darrin: Completely averted so far. All the cast members from the drama CDs have come back to reprise their roles for the anime series.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Kiritsugu's past, featuring Dead Apostles.
  • Parental Abandonment: Tokiomi towards Sakura and Kiritsugu and Irisviel towards Ilya.
  • Playing the Heart Strings: Dream of Eternity, which in the Drama CD plays as Alexander dies.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Kariya and Tokiomi had been able to put aside their mutual hatred for long enough to explain why they felt as they do, or if Aoi and Kariya had bothered to talk about their situation at all, then Aoi's death and Sakura's eleven years of torture could perhaps have been prevented.
    • While they at least TRY to talk in Volume Three, they have no ability to understand each other.
    • One might wonder exactly what Tokiomi's reaction might have been had Kariya actually told him exactly why he was fighting.
    • It was explained that due to the bugs damaging Kariya's brain as well as the strain from having a Berserker-Class servant both took their toll on his mind and thinking processes. In fact, before even summoning Berserker, it was said that Kariya had at best maybe a month left to live, and the Holy Grail War was going to last 2 weeks. Do the math. Suffice to say, Kariya WOULD have likely been able to explain everything to Aoi and Tokiomi if he were in the right state of mind. In fact, it's for that very reason that not only do they never come to realize the truth about him or his motives, but also why Kariya was SO easily manipulated at the end of the war.
    • Another case comes in the form of Kayneth, Sola-Ui, Lancer's fates. Kayneth was forced into a corner with Sola's life at stake, so he signed a contract with Kiritsugu that said that if he used his remaining Command Seal to force Lancer to commit suicide, then Kiritsugu wouldn't harm or kill him or his wife. Kayneth agrees... Only to be shot by Maiya seconds after Lancer dies, and then he upon seeing Sola-Ui dead, begs Kiritsugu to kill him. Kiritsugu reminds him that per their agreement, HE can't kill him. Saber walks up and finishes him off instead.
  • Power Glows: In particular, Excalibur being charged (the sword converts Mana into light).
  • Power Levels: Following Fate/stay night, profile pages of Servants give their abilities and ranks.
  • Prequel To Fate/stay night, written by Gen Urobuchi. It goes pretty much EXACTLY how you expect.
  • Prana: One of the main weaknesses of Servants is that they must have mana to continue existing; since they're technically dead, they are not "a part of the World", so the World itself will try to crush this contradiction.
  • Purple Prose: Invoked by Tokiomi in a lame attempt to kiss up to Archer and get him to take out Caster:

Tokiomi: King, that monster is a destructive pest that tears apart your gardens. I implore you to execute it.
Archer: That would be a gardener's work. Or, Tokiomi, do you dare imply that my Noble Phantasm is nothing more than a gardener's shovel?

  • Rare Guns: A WA2000 (only 176 of the latter were ever made) with thermal and night-vision scopes; none of the characters mention how these guns were smuggled into Japan, of all places.
    • It's not stated directly in the story how Kitsurigu's arsenal was smuggled into Japan, but with both Kiritsugu and Irisviel being Magi, A Wizard Did It after all.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rider delivers a particularly brutal one to Saber, concerning the destruction of her kingdom and the people she saved, her entire identity and her moral code, and her ideal of what a "king" should be.
  • Retcon: Saber in Fate/stay night states that Kiritsugu only spoke to her three times ie. the three Command Seals. However, there are numerous points where he's basically having an argument with her and simply doesn't address her directly. Irisviel at times also seems like a way to get around this. The aftermath of Lancer's suicide and the death of Kayneth is probably the most obvious example. Also, contrary to her claims, it's pretty obvious that she's not quite viewed as a tool: She and Kiritsugu clash too much for that.
    • It may be more of a case of her bitterness over what she perceives as Kiritsugu's betrayal that's talking in Fate/stay night. After going through all those difficult battles and bloody massacres just see Kiritsugu seemingly abandon the ideals he'd supposedly sacrificed everything for by ordering her to destroy the grail may very well have led her to believe that she was a tool all along. Saber doesn't learn about the grail's corruption until the fifth war.
  • Roboteching: Both Berserker and Archer's projectiles during their dogfight.
  • Rule of Cool: At one point, Arturia (as in, King Arthur) rides a motorcycle to fight Iskander, who is on a chariot. They smash heavy items at each other with swords. Really.
  • Screaming Warrior: Rider's battle yodel when charging his chariot over something. Hooooololololololooooo!
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Leans heavily toward the cynical end.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Kiritsugu takes El-Melloi's wife hostage, but signs a magical contract that should he harm either of them, he will lose all his magecraft. El-Melloi agrees to Kiritsugu's terms, then prepares to leave the city with her while they're both alive. Then Kiritsugu's assistant shows up with an assault rifle.
  • Shoot the Dog: Kiritsugu is forced to shoot down the plane Natalia is in since it is infested with ghouls that could cause innumerable casualties if the plane managed to land in New York City.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: See Downer Ending above.
  • Shout-Out
    • The "Einzbern Consultation Room" specials from the DVD are basically a huge Shout-Out to the Tiger Dojo corners from Fate Stay Night, complete with role reversal with Irisviel as the "teacher" and a teenage amnesiac Taiga as the "student", and containing a few other Shout Outs within it:
      • "There are DDD circumstances behind that, so I'm sorry."
      • Alba's silhouette can be seen when Iri talks about mages in the Nasuverse.
    • Caster's vision of Jean D'Arc is the exact same design from Fate/Apocrypha.
    • Natalia smokes the same extremely rare brand of cigarettes that Touko does.
    • Fate/zero Materials notes that, after the Holy Grail war, Kayneth's Volumen Hydragyrum had been tweaked a bit by Waver so it could assume the role of a household servant. The only problem is, thanks to being exposed to a certain film, it occasionally goes berserk while insisting it's a killer robot from the future.
  • Shown Their Work: The Servant's scenes in the anime's ending are based on actual paintings or sculptures of their historical counterparts.
    • For that matter, the fact that the novels include many details accurately regarding the Servants' legends shows that Nasu and Urobuchi definitely did their research on the original myths and history. The departures in this case are less due to Did Not Do the Research and more Artistic License or intentional disregard.
  • Signature Colors: Unlike her signature red-and-black in Fate/stay night, Rin Tohsaka is shown wearing red and white in Fate/Zero.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Starlit Faith ", from the Return to Zero soundtrack album, reads and sounds like a rock ballad about finding one's way to his loved one. One could be forgiven for hearing this and not guessing that the setting of the soundtrack overflows in GRIMDARK-ness...
  • Spared by the Adaptation: See Adaptation Expansion above.
  • Spoiler Opening: The anime's second opening shows Grail corruption leaking from Irisviel's orifices and later implies that she will die.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Varies, but for the first two thirds of the story, you almost wouldn't believe that this is supposed to be Kiritsugu's tale in particular. Team Rider in particular gets plenty of development and scenes.
  • Squishy Wizard: Subverted in the Nasuverse in general; magi can use Reinforcement and other physical spells to boost their bodies to the limits of human capability, in addition to the physical and martial arts training that most modern magi undergo.
  • Super Reflexes: Kiritsugu has a magecraft called "Innate Time Control" that he uses to internally affect time.
    • Kotomine dodges bullets.
  • Surprisingly Good English:
    • Besides "Starlit Faith" above, the Return to Zero album also contains "Beginning Oath". Both also qualify as Crowning Music of Awesome.
    • Kiritsugu's dossiers on the other Masters are shown in the anime to be in clear English.
  • Talking Is a Free Action
  • Tears of Blood: Lancer begins to cry them after he's commanded to impale himself on his own spear. The blood stains his sclera red, giving him quite a demonic appearance in his death throes.
  • Teleport Spam: In one scene, Gilgamesh prefers to simply teleport several times to dramatically appropriate areas of the room as opposed to walking around.
  • There Can Be Only One
  • Thirteen Episode Anime: It's actually fourteen episodes, since the first episode is 45 minutes long. Just for info dump reasons. Meanwhile, Season 2 has twelve episodes.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Church Executors fight using the Black Keys, throwing swords held between the knuckles, in a Wolverine-esque manner.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Bluebeard's Noble Phantasm, Prelati's Spellbook. Aside from the whole cover-made-of-human-skin thing, it's actually "alive" and Bluebeard only "commands" it. It seems to summon Eldritch Abominations.
  • Too Dumb to Live
    • If a giant, seemingly alive ball of mercury appears out of nowhere, you probably shouldn't shove your hand into it.
    • A giant, tentacled monster has appeared in the river? Maybe if I fly my jet in closer, I can get a better look!
  • War Is Hell: The focus of Kiritsugu's lamenting monologue in the third novel. He also takes potshots at heroes, their actions and their legends, which keep men fascinated with war.

See, just like so – just like you said, Iri. This great Heroic Spirit dares to think that the battlefield is better than hell. What a joke! No matter in what era, the battlefield has always been a veritable hell.
In the battlefield, there is no place for hope. What lies there is only cold despair and a sin called victory, built on the pain of the defeated. All those people who met there have wholeheartedly admitted the evil and foolishness of this act called ‘war’. As long as people don’t repent and don’t regard it as the most evil taboo, then hell would endlessly reappear in the world.
However, humans did not realize that truth no matter how high they staked their mountains of corpses. That’s because in no matter what era the courageous and fearless great heroes have always bedazzled the eyes of the multitude with their splendid heroic legends. Because of the wistful actions of those idiots and their refusal to admit that bloodshed is by itself evil, the essence of humans has stayed on the same spot since the Stone Age!

  • Weapon of Choice: Servants are armed with Noble Phantasms, the weapons or abilities that helped make them famous in life. Also, magi are generally armed with one or more "Mystic Codes" which are tools that are designed to be used with their Magecraft. Quite a few are designed specifically for combat.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Saber, and to a lesser extent Irisviel, after Kiritsugu arranges the deaths of Kayneth and Sola-Ui.
  • Wine Is Classy: Gilgamesh, being the arrogant king he is, is often shown drinking wine to highlight this fact. His Gate of Babylon also contains a high-class wine cellar with wine brewed by the gods themselves. This trope is about the only thing Gilgamesh shares with his summoner, as Tokiomi is also fond of red wine and is generally acknowledged as a particularly classy fellow.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Dear God! Caster! To make matters worse, the second episode of the anime shows his child-murdering cruelty in all its horrific glory (thankfully we don't actually see what happens to the poor kid after he gets dragged offscreen, but hearing it is just bad enough).
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Lancer's Gae Buidhe inflicts a curse on wounds so they won't heal, which is described in RPG terms as akin to reducing maximum hit points (i.e. healing will have no effect, since Saber would be at "full HP" despite the wound). Saber gets afflicted by this early on due to a lapse in battle judgment. This becomes Saber's Drama-Preserving Handicap until Volume 3, where Saber, Lancer and Rider team up to battle the Eldritch Abomination that Caster set loose upon the city. Even then, during her rematch with Lancer, Saber fights Lancer using only her right hand.
  • You Are Too Late: Zouken Matou: "There were terrible cries for the first three days, but by the fourth day, she was silent. Today, she was thrown at dawn in the worm storage to test how well she would last, but, ho ho, she endured it for half a day and is still breathing. What do you know, the Tohsaka material isn't defective." Poor Sakura.
  1. (which the curse of his Mystic Face either caused or encouraged)