There exists a plane beyond human conception, within which resides the Throne of Heroes. Here, the souls of both famous (and infamous) individuals throughout history are stored and recorded, to be used as eternal guardians of mankind. The definition of "hero" is broad — even the most ruthless and heartless may have benefited the greater good in the end.Centuries ago, three families of magi — the Einzbern, Makiri, and 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 such artifact branded by The Church. Heroic Spirits from the Throne are summoned and bound to the material world, becoming "Servants" to their summoning "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 and embody their fame — Noble Phantasms, legendary armaments and abilities.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 is the story of the Fourth Holy Grail War.Kiritsugu Emiya grew up wanting to be a hero who could save anyone and everyone... but he learned the hard way that for every person he saved, another had to die. The only way to be a hero was to act for the good of all humanity; to destroy the factor that would destroy even more humans in turn if left unchecked. And if that factor was humanity itself, then he would kill every single one who threatened 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, Kiritsugu is adopted by the Einzbern as an honorary family member. However, the Einzberns' real motive is to send him to Fuyuki City, his old home, to participate in the Fourth Heaven's Feel on their behalf. Despite finding love and happiness with his new family — his wife, Irisviel, and their daughter, Ilya — he knows the battle isn't over. As one of the seven Masters, he must return to Japan to obtain the Holy Grail of Fuyuki for the Einzbern.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. Set in the Nasuverse, it is the prequel to acclaimed visual novelFate/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 concluded in Spring 2012.The anime was streamed for free with subtitles in eight different languages by Aniplex on Nico Nico as it aired. The episodes are available on Crunchyroll.The English dub by Aniplex USA, VIZ Media's and Neon Alley service is currently available on Netflix.
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.
Ryuunosuke and Caster are serial child murderers who like to give their victims a Hope Spot before brutally killing them. The collateral damage risks breaking the Masquerade and becomes so severe that a reward is offered to whoever can kill Caster first, putting the entire war on hold until then. Cue nearly everyone doing an Enemy Mine to take these two down. Really, REALLY not helped by who *this* Caster really is. Take Our Word for It. Please.
Losing one's family: By the end of the story, Kiritsugu has lost his wife, Irisveil, and daughter, Ilya, as well as his mistress and close friend, Maiya.
Betrayal by friends and allies: Kirei backstabs to Tokiomi.
Having the love of your life hate you and tell you that you aren't capable of loving happens to Kariya.
Caster having a hallucination of Jeanne d'Arc reaching out to him while smiling and realizing just what kind of monster he has become before dying.
There is also Kayneth's death. After agreeing to quit the war, he is summarily executed by Kiritsugu alongside his fiancee through use of a loophole. Because Kiritsugu cannot pull the trigger himself, he even has to bleed and beg for death on the ground until a disgusted Saber has to perform a Mercy Kill.
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. She's still The Mistress, but only because of Kiritsugu's masochistic need to "practice" betraying his wife for the grail.
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 wife Claudia 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 Servantnote which the curse of his Mystic Face either caused or encouraged, 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.
Averted with Kiritsugu and Irisviel. Until she dies.
Gilgamesh (according to the graphic novel anyway) has only ever loved Saber (or at least is obssessed with her) but she rebuffs him at every oppurtunity.
The original game, side material, information volumes, etc.
Likewise, the details on the previous Grail Wars. The Third is mentioned as having taken place in World War II, with Naziagents getting in the way of the Grail. This also explains in part why the Grail itself got corrupted.
The Servants' actual physical parameters, powers, and skills are all listed in their character sheets.
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.
Ultimately, the Grail itself, corrupted by Angra Mainyu.
Its corruption is what likely attracts it to Kirei's hidden evil desire and causes it to choose him as a Master It also likely had a hand in choosing a serial killer as the last Master when there were no more volunteers.
It also chose serial killer Ryuunosuke, despite his almost non-existent magical qualifications.
In the long term, Matou Zouken, who bides his time and maintains his quiet participation in the war until its final iteration in the sequel.
Bittersweet Ending: The Einzbern Consultation Room OVAs end with Taiga being separated from Irisviel, but not before Irisviel gives her the Einzbern Dojo sign. Taiga wakes up and begins wondering if her time in the dojo with Irisviel was All Just a Dream. Taiga discovers that she still has the sign, and although she'll never see Irisviel again, decides to start working towards teaching people how to overcome any and all "Bad Ends".
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.
Brick Joke: All the way back in Fate/stay night, it was mentioned that Saber would have a technical vulnerability against weapons that were made to counter dragons. In her final battle against Berserker, the sword he uses finally is a weapon that has such an attribute.
Call Forward/Foreshadowing: Interestingly, this one was entirely by accident, as Fate/hollow ataraxia wasn't fully planned out at that stage, but somehow, Gen Urobuchi was able to get the mechanics behind Avenger/Angra Mainyu's method of "possession" entirely by chance. Nasu and Takeuchi found the coincidence kinda freaky.
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.
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.
In the last episode of the anime, a high school girl is shown in the background waving a shinai around. That's most likely Taiga Fujimura, a supporting character from Fate/stay night.
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 Bishōnen, 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 especiallyKariya.
Cheaters Never Prosper: The only Master who doesn't cheat over the course of the War is Waver (Kirei cheats by seeking sanctuary under false pretenses. Ryuunosuke breaks the rule about preserving the Masquerade. Everyone else breaks the rule about not fighting each other until Caster is beaten). While Waver doesn't win the war, he does survive it, and is indisputably better off at the end of the War than he was at the beginning, which is more than can be said about Kirei and Kiritsugu.
Chekhov's Gun: The magic circle Irisviel and Saber drew in the shed of the operations base Kiritsugu provided them ended 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.
Subverted to hell and back during the fight between Assassin and Rider.
Played straight with the assassins themselves. They had to split his power and combat prowess of the regular Assassin class servantnote Which is the weakest Servant class to begin with. between all personas somewhat equally.
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.
Rider vs. Assassin. Cue Ionioi Hetairoi: Army of the King, and the fight becomes such a ridiculously one-sided slaughter that the author doesn't even bother describing it.
Any fight Gilgamesh participates in could be this if he took any of the other servants even remotely seriously (not that he has to, seeing as he's easily one of the most powerful things in the Nasuverse, including ORT, Ado Edem and Archetype Earth). Word of God states that he could have single-handedly ended the Fourth Holy Grail in a single night if he bothered to go full out.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The anime version of the scene where Kariya strangles Aoi manages to summon implications of rape by the way of their relative positioning, the way she struggles, putting attention to their ragged breathing and placing his knee between her legs.
Doomed by Canon: Pointed out early on that you probably don't want to get too attached to anyone. By the end, the only people left are Kiritsugu, Kirei, 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.
Kiritsugu sacrifices his wife and trusted partner to achieve his goal of world peace, only to find that the Grail is corrupted. He orders Saber to destroy it, causing its contents to spill out into the town and kill hundreds of civilians. To Kiritsugu's Einzbern sponsors, this apparent betrayal permanently costs him access to his daughter, leaving her to be raised as a weapon for the next war. Furthermore, his arch-nemesis Kirei survives, and outlives him to threaten his son (and daughter) in the next war. Kariya dies having failed to save Sakura, serving only has a nightmarish reminder of what happens to those who disobey her grandfather. Sakura remains with the Matou family, enduring experimentation and sexual abuse over the next decade. Rin is orphaned and mostly unaware of her sister's situation so they never reconnect. Major villain Gilgamesh also survives; his exposure to the Grail's corruption leaves him with a permanent body and slight insanity. As for Kiritsugu, he is cursed by the Grail, gradually losing his powers and senses until he dies several years later. The damaged and corrupted Grail, which has failed to grant a wish yet *again*, reactivates a mere ten years later despite Kiritsugu's efforts to sabotage Fuyuki City's ley lines.
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 Moment of Awesome: Iskandar a.k.a Rider manages to go out with more dignity and style than most people have even at the height of their achievements.
Eldritch Abomination: Summoned by Caster in the form of tentacled monster hordes and a massive, Cthulhu-like beast. 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.
Urobuchi is known for incorporating elements of the CthulhuMythos into his Nitro+ visual novels.
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.
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".
Fanservice: The final episode has Gilgamesh stark naked during most of his conversation with Kirei. It makes sense, though, since he was drenched in Angra Mainyu's corruption and his body is now flesh and blood, unlike the rest of the series.
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 Kirei'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.
Flowery Elizabethan English: Mostly Lost in Translation, but Rider's speech can smack of the Japanese equivalent of this at times, while it is pretty much the default mode of speech for Gilgamesh. Hence even native speakers of Japanese sometimes have trouble with following Gilgamesh's conversations, as he uses archaic versions of just about every noun and verb, even simple ones.
Foregone Conclusion: The novels are written as a prequel to 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.
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".
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: Death, fire, and epic battles between mythic heroes!
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. Magi tend to disdain technology and consider it inferior to magic, to the point that they almost never bother defending against it. Kiritsugu exploits this complacency to great effect, using guns, mines, missile launchers, and demolitions to take out his targets.
Kayneth's liquid metal artifact protects him from Claymore mines, a skyscraper collapsing around him, and automatic fire at point-blank range, while Kirei outright dodges bullets.
Firearms are completely ineffective against Servants.
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.
Also averted, non-fatally, by Zouken with regards to five year old Sakura, the abuse of whom is described in gut-wrenching detail.
Info Dump: These pop up from time to time. Particularly in Episode 1 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.
Japanese Christian: The Tohsaka clan were historically secret Christians, though it's unknown whether Tokiomi keeps the faith.
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 left the hotel.
Karma Houdini: Ryuunosuke, in a sense. He gets killed by Kiritsugu, but he is so thrilled at the sight of his own blood that it doesn't really feel like actual punishment. It is stated in the novel that he dies with a smile of total bliss.
Killed Them AllFor Real: Averted with Kirei, Gilgamesh, Waver, and practically all other characters who had major roles in FSN.
Lampshade Hanging: From the Einzbern Consultation Room specials: "You probably think Assassin is just there to get killed."
In the anime, the wards around the Tohsaka estate, despite being more like invisible rotating cages of magic, invoke all the contortions and careful maneuvers that come along with this trope when Assassin infiltrates them.
Kayneth claims an entire hotel floor as his base and laces it with an absurd number of traps and wards. So Kiritsugu levels the entire building instead.
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.
The Einzbern Consultation Room OVAs, on the other hand, are designed to be sweet moe goodness to counter the very dark and horrifying narrative. Zecchan even somewhat invokes this, saying that they should "pretend all that Urobuchi-style stuff never happened".
Fate/Zero itself, while cynical and dark enough to compete with Heaven's Feel, is rather light on the horror elements when compared to its parent work.
Lovecraft Lite: Caster summons EldritchAbominations, but they are mainly used to highlight his existing insanity and lack of control rather than inflicting any visible effect on the world or other characters.
Male Gaze: During the Einzbern Consultation Room, Irisviel adjusts her kimono in such a way as to titillate male viewers.
Masquerade: Enforced by the Magic Association and the Church, who are responsible for manipulating the media and covering up evidence of the war to prevent it from spilling over into everyday life. It is uncommon for Masters to fight in broad daylight, for the same reason.
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.
Mindcontrol Eyes: Caster makes Ryuunosuke a bracelet that allows him to easily abduct children; the effects of the enchantment naturally involve this trope.
Mistaken for Badass: In the novels, Kiritsugu is impressed by Waver's choice of home base. Appropriating an anonymous home in the middle of nowhere and mind-controlling two disposable pawns to gain their assistance shows a level of ruthlessness and dedication to secrecy that the Magus Killer cannot help but appreciate. The fact that Waver just didn't possess the resources to do any better never even occurs to him. Fortunately Kiritsugu is not staking out the house when the delivery truck arrives with a package for "Mr. Iskandar, King of Conquerers", so his impression of Waver's tactical ability remains positive.
Mood Dissonance: In the anime, Kirei recites Psalm 23, a psalm expressing peace and trust in Divine guidance and protection as scenes play Waver crying Manly Tears after being spared by Gilgamesh, Saber getting a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from Berserker, Kariya in agony, and, with "In the presence of my enemies you prepare a table for me...", Irisviel's corpse laid down on a table one floor above where he will be fighting Kiritsugu. at the end of the episode.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ryuunosuke is somewhat similar to François Prelati, Gilles de Rais' historical partner in crime and possible lover. Much like Ryuunosuke, Prelati was young, good-looking and deeply amoral. What makes them different is the fact that Prelati was a liar who manipulated Gilles for his own benefit, whereas Ryuunosuke's affection for Caster appears to be completely sincere.
In the finale, Kiritsugu barely fails to kill Kirei, who outlives him to eventually to become the nemesis of Kirtsugu's son. He commands Saber to destroy the corrupted Grail, which only results in its contents spilling out into the town and causing an inferno that kills hundreds of civilians. The damaged and corrupted Grail is unable to grant a wish to the victor, causing it to reactivate prematurely a mere ten years later. See DownerEnding for even more fun details.
In Kiritsugu's backstory, the vampire Odd Vořák is easily dispatched by Natalia... releasing all of the bees he was hiding within his body and turning the entire plane cabin into a bloodbath. Kiritsugu is then forced to shoot down the plane with his mentor/mother figure on it to prevent the monsters from reaching the civilian population.
Politically Incorrect Hero: Saber suspects that Kiritsugu won't interact with her because she turned out to be a different gender than expected of King Arthur. In reality, Kiritsugu knows that he and his chivalrous Servant have an extreme philosophical divide, so he chooses not to operate alongside her.
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 brain damage 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.
Power Glows: In particular, Excalibur being charged (the sword converts Mana into light).
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 WA2000note only 176 of the latter were ever made, most of which are in private collectionswith thermal and night-vision scopes; none of the characters mention how these guns were smuggled into Japan, of all places.
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.
Kiritsugu's speech against Saber qualifies as well, see War Is Hell below or the quotes page.
Recurring Riff: Melodies from Point Zero and Let The Stars Fall Down pop up all over the soundtrack.
Roboteching: Both Berserker and Archer's projectiles during their dogfight.
RPG Mechanics Verse: Dates back to Fate/stay night. Servants have "character sheets" that are visible to masters, describing their attributes in terms such as "STR/CON/AGI" and "Class Skills", and quantifying the power of attacks and weapons. This is a remnant of the creator's early attempts to create a strategy RPG.
Rule of Cool: Saber rides a magically armored motorcycle while fighting, Rider who is on a flying lightning chariot. They smash heavy items at each other with swords. Really.
Rule of Symbolism: The smashing of Okeanos' waves was the beating of Rider's own heart. One may take this as a metaphor that one should spend their life doing what they love, or that the journey is its own reward.
Scenery Porn: In the anime, no expense was too high, best described by one reviewer which described it as "...a budget big enough to buy Belgium." This gives the anime some of the best art and animation in the entire industry, and the Blu-Ray 1080p editions just laugh at attempts to match them. Takealook◊
Berserker never speaks until his helmet comes off, only roars.
Self-Deprecation: In the Einzbern Consultation Room specials, Disciple Zero attempts to reassure Lancer that there would be no "Urobuchi-type drama". The Fate/Zero novel was written by Gen Urobuchi himself.
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 Maiya shows up with an assault rifle.
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". The segments contain a few other Shout Outs:
"There are DDD circumstances behind that, so I'm sorry."
Alba's silhouette can be seen when Iri talks about mages in the Nasuverse.
Some of the explanations about the world and Holy Grail War are set to SouthPark-style illustrations. Another TYPE-MOON anime had a significant South Park shout-out.
Natalia smokes the same extremely rare brand of cigarettes that Touko does.
Fate/Zero Materials notes that, after the war, Kayneth's Volumen Hydragyrum was 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.
In the anime's first ending, the Servants are depicted in scenes that are based on actual paintings or sculptures of their historical counterparts.
Many details of the Servants' legends had to have required substantial research, Artistic License notwithstanding.
In particular, combining with the above-mentioned ending artwork being based on paintings and sculptures, Gilgamesh (Archer) is shown with a lion by his side. Gilgamesh is well-enough known in modern pop culture that plenty of people know his name; fewer probably know that his companion late in the Epic of Gilgamesh was a lion.
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...
Team Rider in particular gets plenty of screen time and character development.
Irisviel and Saber have a more normal Master-Servant relationship than the actual pair.
Gen Urobuchi's favorite characters, Gilgamesh and Kirei; in an interview Urobuchi stated that he wrote Fate/Zero mainly for Kirei.
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.
Supernormal Bindings: One of Archer's Noble Phantasms is Enkidu, a special chain that was created to restrain the gods, its strength is proportional to the divinity of their opponent, so while it can easily overpower gods, when used against normal person, it simply acts as a tough chain.
Church Executors fight using the Black Keys, throwing swords held between the knuckles, in a Wolverine-esque manner.
To be fair, the swords are explicitly designed for throwing with their long length and weighting making it difficult to use as an actual sword. On top of this, it is stated in the novels that they require great skill to wield effectively and, despite it being the signature weapon of the Executors, few make them their Weapon of Choice. Kirei is one of those few.
If a giant, sentient ball of mercury appears out of nowhere, you probably shouldn't shove your hand into it.
Is that a gargantuan, tentacled monster in the river? Maybe I can get a better look if I fly closer to it!
Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Lancer shows up in an Einzbern Consultation Room special unable to recall anything that happened in Episode 16. Zecchan encourages him to "pretend that none of that Urobuchi-style stuff ever happened", but Irisviel won't let him off the hook that easily.
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 has Kayneth and Sola-Ui executed after promising that he wouldn't harm them.
Matou Zouken: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.