In a plane outside of human comprehension lies the Throne of Heroes. Here, the records of the brave men and women whose lives have become legends are kept, to be used as eternal guardians of mankind. When a legend has been venerated enough by humanity- even those of Anti Heroes or villains- they can become immortalised as a Heroic Spirit that surpasses time itself.There exists a magic ritual known as "Heaven's Feel" that can be performed every few decades. As part of this ritual, seven Magi ("Masters") summon seven Heroic Spirits to act as their stand-ins ("Servants") for a battle royale where the last duo standing are granted the ultimate prize: the Holy Grail, a legendary artifact that will grant any wish of the Master and Servant that acquire it.Each Heroic Spirit is armed with powers and armaments that directly relate to their own legend, the strongest of which are known as Noble Phantasms. As the knowledge of a Heroic Spirit's true identity would reveal precious information about their strengths and weaknesses, each one who participates is grouped into one of seven classes: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin.Shirou Emiya is a young, untalented Magus whose only skill is in basic Tracing and Reinforcement magic. One day after he stays behind at school, he stumbles upon one of the first battles in Heaven's Feel V, a.k.a the Fifth Holy Grail War. The rules of the Holy Grail War dictate that any witnesses must be struck down, but just as Shirou is about to be killed, he unwittingly summons a mysterious blonde-haired knight of the Saber class, widely regarded as the best of the seven classes.Now that Shirou is part of the Fifth Holy Grail War, he must fight against the six other Magi who are determined to have their wishes granted. His chief ally/rival in this is Rin Tohsaka, a gifted Magus and Tsundere-extraordinaire who has summoned a sardonic and amnesiac Archer-class Servant.The original game was a PC ErogeVisual Novel created by the company Type-Moon, and set in the Nasu Verse. It was split into three routes:
Fate: A route focused on Shirou, and his ideal of becoming a selfless "Hero of Justice" who can protect the lives of everyone and everything.
Unlimited Blade Works: A route focused on Rin and Archer, specifically delving into Archer's mysterious past and his conflict with Shirou's ideals.
Heaven's Feel: The third and final route, focused on Shirou's childhood friend Sakura Matou, the dark machinations of her grandfather, and the secrets behind the creation of the Heaven's Feel ritual.
An anime adaptation created by Studio DEEN. The story is mostly based on the Fate route, with a few additions from the two other routes to make the series fill out 24 episodes and give more attention to characters that were pushed to the background during Fate.
A movie adaptation, also created by Studio DEEN. This version covers the Unlimited Blade Works route, with emphasis on the action scenes.
A manga adaptation. Like the anime adaptation, it is based on the Fate scenario with some additional material from the other routes. The artist, Datto Nishiwaki, is a big Type-Moon fan, and makes references to other Nasu Verse works in his end-of-volume rants.
If you refuse to participate in the Grail War when you're taken to the church for the first time, Ilya proceeds to brutalize Shirou and torture him without killing him.
Shirou is not the only Fourth Grail War orphan. The other children were taken in by the church and used by Kotomine for powering his associate Gilgamesh in mana. Not for making him stay in this world, he has already a body, just in mana. They are stuck in a grave, their bodies and souls being slowly dissolved. And yes, they are fully aware. They'd be screaming except their vocal chords have mostly rotted away.
Bad Guys Do The Dirty Work: Ilya and Berserker conveniently kill Shinji after his Servant is defeated by Saber, saving Shirou from the moral quandary presented by having to deal with a totally defenseless person who crossed the Moral Event Horizon right in front of him previously.
Bittersweet Ending: Shirou Did Not Get the Girl but decides that life goes on. Ilyasviel survives, but probably won't live more than a few years (at best) due to her being a homunculus. And although the Distant Finale in the PS2 version has Shirou and Saber reuniting, it's also made very clear that, not only are they both dead, but Saber and Shirou were separated for a very long time.
A sword keeps appearing in Shirou's dream throughout the route. It's the sword Caliburn, which Shirou projects in order to defeat Berserker.
Saber mentions having lost her final Noble Phantasm, Avalon, Excalibur's sheath. Rin also narrates a story about Merlin, saying the King's true weapon is his sheath. It was inside Shirou and keeping him alive the whole time. It was also her summoning catalyst.
Earn Your Happy Ending: In the ending of the scenario of Realta Nua, as Saber lies dying, lamenting on losing Shiro, she is visited by Merlin, who feeling that she is owed something for all her hardships claims that there is a way for her to be reunited with the one she loves. However, it would require two impossible feats: she must wait for him continuously and Shirou must pursue her endlessly. They do. And are reunited in what appears to be Avalon.
Fission Mailed: Telling Saber there won't be lunch and teasing her about her growling stomach makes her mad enough to put on her armour and send you to the Tiger Dojo. Except it's not over and the story continues!
Foregone Conclusion: It's impossible to save Saber from dying because it happened about 1500 years ago from Shirou's perspective. However, this doesn't mean she can't live out a full life here and then simply return on the verge of death back to the battlefield and then die there. This only happens in one ending, though.
Good People Have Good Sex: While Shirou and Saber's first time is incredibly awkward, note as they're on the run from a very dangerous foe and Saber is on the verge of disappearing their subsequent sexual encounter is treated as the best thing ever, despite how inexperienced both are.
Guide Dang It: Gathering all the Tiger Stamps from the bad ends gives you a number of special scenes in the end. Though most Bad Ends are fairly easy to figure out, Bad End 13 requires some hoop jumping to get Saber's Relationship Points low enough.
Instant Runes: Rider creates a rune circle almost instantaneously to use her Noble Phantasm and escape from Saber when cornered.
Let Them Die Happy: In the ending, when a dying Arturia tells Sir Bedivere that she saw a dream and asks him whether she can see the same dream again if she closes her eyes, he says that yes, he had that experience once before.
Love at First Sight: Shirou falls for Saber the moment he first sees her after accidentally summoning her.
Magic Contract Romance: Saber is bound to Shirou by the Command Spell, but she genuinely comes to love him and his willingness to protect her during the route.
Mind Rape: Shirou sees horrific images of every crime imaginable when he's covered with mud from the Grail.
Not Quite Dead: Berserker is seemingly blown to pieces by Rin, but his Noble Phantasm gives him 12 lives, meaning Rin is still within his grasp.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Archer's fight against Berserker, with the former managing to kill the later six times before being defeated.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Shirou and Saber. He's a regular boy with a hero complex, she's a Heroic Spirit that only wishes for the Holy Grail. She also wishes to basically erase herself from history. Even though that doesn't end up happening, she has to return to the time of her death and finally die, reminiscing her time with Shirou as a dream.
Stay in the Kitchen: Shirou has a problematic attitude towards Saber in this route and the anime, which has suffered Memetic Mutation. He says some really sexist lines and tries to do the fighting in Saber's place. Ironically, Shirou plays with this trope more than he plays it straight; his adamant refusal to allow Saber to fight only happens in the route where she's his love interest and it comes after watching her nearly get killed defending him in her first fight with Berserker. Shirou explicitly has a spiritual disorder that causes him to have little to no sense of self and derive any sense of happiness and worth only through helping others. It causes him to put way too much responsibility on himself and refuse to compromise his desire to help everyone. Thus, his attitude has less to do with Saber being a girl and more with his hero complex and the fear of seeing Saber get hurt again because of him.
Suspiciously Specific Denial: After a rather serious monologue with Saber contemplating about protecting Shirou, and eventually having the brief thought of her feeling like a girl in love like in the story books, Rin walks by asking where Shirou is.
Saber: "R-Rin! What is it? I-It's not like I'm surrendering to Shirou!"
Temporal Paradox: Saber's goal is to go back in time and have someone other than her become King Arthur, as she believes herself a poor king responsible for her country's destruction.
Their First Time: Shirou and Saber have sex for the first time in a cabin and it is incredibly awkward, since despite their mutual feelings, Saber is at the verge of disappearing.
Time Travel Romance: Of the tragic variety. Saber is a woman summoned from medieval times, whereas Shirou is a boy from the 21st century. In the end, Saber has to return to the time of her death and finally rest.
"Stay Night" is the title of the climactic scene of the Fate route, where Shirou and Saber face off against the villains.
The title of the route's True End, "Continuation of the Dream", comes from its final words: "Do you see it, King Arthur? The continuation of your dream?".
Together in Death: "The Last Episode" has Shirou and Saber. Shirou most likely followed the same path as Archer, but unlike Archer he did not regret his ideals because those were the ideals he shared with Saber, the ideals that he found to be so beautiful. Also unlike Archer, he had a goal in mind, a goal that is for nobody's sake but his own: to endlessly chase after the golden-haired girl, who is eternally waiting for him alone on the fields of gold.
Wall Slump: Rin leaves a trail of blood around her while slumping down the wall after Kotomine attacks the house to secure Illya..
Caster dies to protect her Master, who then challenges Archer to a completely hopeless fight to avenge her.
Ilya dies not as a cruel Master but instead as a scared little girl.
Attack! Attack! Attack!: Used by Shirou on Gilgamesh. Both of them have access to virtually infinite weapons, the only difference being that whereas Shirou borrows the skill and strength of the person who´s weapon he is wielding, Gilgamesh is a Master Swordsman but is not used to any weapon other than Ea, which he is too proud to use, making it battle of Attack! Attack! Attack!. Even though Gilgamesh's weapons are stronger than Shirou's, within the boundaries of "Unlimited Blade Works" Shirou can pull out weapons faster than Gilgamesh, allowing him the decisive blow when a frustrated Gilgamesh decides to take the extra time to try to pull out Ea. It really helps that Gil is extremely arrogant and refuse to fight "mere trash" seriously until it was too late.
Attempted Rape: Shinji attempts to rape Rin Tohsaka while she's captive in the Einzbern castle. The result? He gets stabbed by Lancer and runs away in fear, looking exceptionally pathetic.
Batman Gambit: Archer's plan involves manipulating Shirou's hero complexnote which he knows very well and Caster's confidence in her power and superiority after capturing Saber. It goes surprisingly well. Archer pretends to join Caster in order to remove Rin's command which prevents him from attacking Shirou. After Shirou and Rin weaken Caster and Kuzuki, Archer deals the final blow and Shirou is indefensible before him, while Saber is available for Rin to make a contract with. However, he didn't consider Rin would make a contract with Saber before he manages to kill Shirou.
Gas Leak Coverup: A number of non-fatal incidents around the town (caused by Caster's efforts gathering mana) are attributed to gas leaks.
Gratuitous English: "Unlimited Blade Works" and the Title Drop Noble Phantasm are examples of Gratuitous English. Archer's Noble Phantasm Invocation makes great deviations between the accurate translation from the Japanese text and the Japanese "translation" that accompanies it in the game.
Guide Dang It: Getting the Good Ending requires Saber to have 4 or more relationship points and Rin to have less than 8, making it the only Type-Moon ending that needs more than "reload and change the last choice" for the alternate ending.
The way Caster tries to break Saber shows she enjoys it a bit too much.
Shirou is quite blunt in asking his best friend Issei to remove his school uniform. And Issei, for his part, was strangely okay with it. Coupled with Issei's general dislike of women...
Memento MacGuffin: Rin's pendant, which she used to save Shirou, and was also the summoning catalyst for Archer.
Mythology Gag: Towards the end, Lancer snarks that, too bad, he would have wanted Rin as his Master. Six real-life years later in Fate Extra, he gets his wish. And then in Fate Prototype we learn that one of Rin's prototypes actually did summon Lancer.
Non Standard Game Over: If you make the wrong choice when Rin attacks you at school, Shirou 'loses' the Grail War, but survives everything just fine and goes back to his mundane life ( minus a few memories).
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: It is mentioned off-handedly in an intermission that Servant Assassin fought off Lancer, Saber, Archer, Rider, and Berserker when they approached Caster's temple. Shame we never get to see it.
Polyamory: The Good Ending has Rin declare than Saber is part of 'her harem, since she's the one keeping her around.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Archer has a pretty good game of speed chess going on based around the goal of getting to kill Shirou. First, a direct attack. Second, when block by Tohsaka he attempts to go through a loophole to kill him. Third, he then breaks his contract with Tohsaka to get away from the Command Seal. It's a lot sneakier than it sounds.
Kotomine dies for what he believes in. He never had a chance to be good and hates that more than anyone.
Zouken doesn't die until we finally see what his original motivation was: He just wanted to live long enough to see the Grail War conclude successfully so it could be used for the betterment of mankind.
Always Save the Girl: Shirou chooses to sacrifice his ideal and the lives of hundreds in order to save Sakura.
Attempted Rape: When Sakura goes looking for Zouken in the Matou household, an enraged Shinji attempts to rape her, as it's revealed he's done this many times in the past out of spite and jealousy over her succeeding the Matou line. Sakura kills him, and as a result, she gives in to her darker self.
The Cameo: Zelretch appears in the True End of the route in order to save Rin (one of his "pupils", who had used the second magic) from being tried and perhaps even executed by the Assocation.
Chekhov's Gun: Ilya's explanation to Shirou of how transferring a person's consciousness works. That's how she saves his soul in the True End.
Cherry Blossoms: Used as a sign of rebirth and new beginnings. Sakura tells Shirou that she'd like to see the cherry blossoms once spring comes around, so Shirou promises her they'll go once everything is over. In the True End, Sakura, Rin, Rider and Shirou visit the blossoming trees, symbolising their happiness and renewed hope.
Cooldown Hug: As she can't quite bring herself to deliver the fatal strike, Rin gives one of these to Sakura at the end of their battle in "Heaven's Feel" instead.
"All the Evils of the World" that plays during the final confrontation before the Great Grail, is an ominous version of "Church on the Hilltop", which was ominous enough to begin with.
"Realta Nua" has an added ominous remix of "Sword of Promised Victory" Saber Alter style.
Downer Ending: The Normal Ending has the world saved, but Shirou is dead and Sakura ages alone, still waiting for him.
Enemy Mine: Halfway through the route, Kotomine and Shirou have to team up to rescue Ilya. Refusing Kotomine's help will result in Shirou attempting to go it alone and, upon successfully infiltrating the Einzbern's castle, he gets killed by the enemy Servant.
Erotic Dream: Shirou dreams he has sex with Rin at some point through. It's revealed to be part of Rider's powers, as she can absorb Shirou's mana through such dreams.
From Bad to Worse: Things get progressively worse down the route, with barely any Hope Spots in between. Masters lose their Servants, the Shadow keeps attacking the city, Zouken's manipulations continue to bite the heroes and the heroine plunges into even worse despair every day.
Rider's loyalty to her Master and the attempts to keep said Master safe give the impression there's something more than loyalty involved.
Memento MacGuffin: Sakura's ribbon, which was the first ribbon Rin ever made, and one of the few signs of their true feelings for each other, as opposed to the apparent indifference or even outright hatred that is shown through most of the route.
Moment Killer: At one point, a seemingly sick Sakura begins caressing Shirou while the music from the H-scenes plays...when Saber walks in.
Mundane Made Awesome: Shirou meets Kotomine at the restaurant...munching mapo tofu and managing to make something so simple look menacing.
The "Mind of Steel" Bad End where the war continues with Shirou still involved, having embraced Kiritsugu's methods by disposing of Sakura.
The "Sparks Liner High" bad end has Shirou fighting Saber Alter solo and die defeating her. Even if he dies, Shirou reaches the top of the top, having defeated a mighty heroic spirit.
Not Quite Dead: Kotomine grinds Zouken's skull to dust and exorcises him, but he can reform his body later as his soul is kept safe within Sakura's heart.
Oh Crap: Zouken and Assassin weren't particularly worried when Rider stood against them, seeing as she had been unimpressive until then. They soon go into Oh Crap territory when she slams Assassin's face into the wall.
Our Vampires Are Different: Zouken Matou by Nasuverse terminology is basically a magically induced vampire. His quest for immortality has caused his body and soul to decay, thus coming up against the problem all Nasuverse vampires face, causing him to seek something better.
Paint It Black: The ones corrupted by the Shadow have their weapons and armour turn black and red. Berserker mostly turns a sickly red because his skin is apparently melting off.
The Power of Love: Shirou's main motivation in this route. His love for Sakura keeps him going, even when he becomes so brain-damaged that he forgets her very name.
Precision F-Strike: Shirou's response to the idea of letting Angra Mainyu be born and wrecking Sakura's life even more (in addition to pretty much destroying all of humanity)? "Fuck that."
Theme Music Power-Up: "Light and Darkness" plays during the last battle, between Shirou and Kotomine. Or rather, half of the song plays at first, giving a tense techno beat while Shirou's getting his ass kicked. It's only when he reflects on Sakura and pulls off a frenzied counterattack that the second half of the song plays.
Title Drop: The words "Heaven's Feel" refer to two different things.
Ilya's dress for the ritual is called the third dress, "Heaven's Feel".
The true name of the Holy Grail War ritual, whose real purpose is obtaining the Third Magic, capable of materializing the soul.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Kotomine takes up the mantle. First, send Lancer to investigate. When he dies, use Gilgamesh to get things back on track. When he dies, embrace the new situation and set up Sakura to start eating everyone. Team up with Shirou since he's easily manipulated and have him help to keep Ilya safe since she's needed. Destroy Zouken so you can beat True Assassin. Sakura crushes your heart? Big deal, you'll still make it to the final battle anyway. Even when he loses, he still crushes Shirou's ideology.
It also tends to use end-of-volume bonus stories to expand on various scenes (most often for humorous effect): showing the details of the 'duel' between Saber and Taiga; telling the backstory behind the clothing Rin gives to Saber; a pre-War scene in the archery club with Shirou, Sakura, and Shinji that actually goes a long way towards explaining why anyone on Earth would want to be Shinji's friend...
The anime touches on elements from the Visual Novel, such as Archer's identity, Ilya's parentage, and Sakura's relationship with Rin, without actually providing its own explanations. In order to understand certain elements from the Visual Novel, in turn, you may have to reference a published extra called Fate/side material.
This is doubly true for the "Unlimited Blade Works" movie, which will make about no sense as a narrative unless you have already played the "Unlimited Blade Works" route, as it squeezes many hours of gameplay into a two-hour movie But hey,explosions.
Animation Bump: Considering Studio DEEN has a rather...spotty reputation, the sheer quality and fluidity of the animation in the "Unlimited Blade Works" movie is astounding, especially compared to the anime series.
Bait-and-Switch Credits: Second anime opening, depicting Shirou and Archer facing off a la the "Unlimited Blade Works" scenario from the game.
Between My Legs: At least one shot in every scene involving Rin in the movie is from this angle.
Bleached Underpants: The anime, film and the PS2 version of the game (Realta Nua) replace the H-scenes that were in the original game with alternate, non-erotic versions.
Inconsistent Subs: Mainly because there have been several different sources of translations, either the official anime translation, the Mirror Moon's Fate/stay night translation, or others. This isn't normally problematic, but the terminology tends to look very different between versions.
Lighter and Softer: The manga seems to be heading this direction. It focuses mostly on the rather idealistic "Fate" route, with Shinji of all people getting a softer side and surviving events that killed him in the Visual Novel.
Male Gaze: All over the "Unlimited Blade Works" movie. If a scene has Rin in it, there will be at least a few shots focused on her Zettai Ryouiki for no particular reason.
Off Model: The anime was rather infamous for this (even present in the first episode, which is usually better animated). The film shows almost none of this, although Shinji's "rape face" Evil Laugh looks less like him and more like a character from Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni about to do something horrible.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In the manga, Rin and Archer come across the aftermath of a battle between Berserker and Caster at Ryudou Temple. Apparently Berserker avoided Assassin by not using the mountain gate, meaning he just ripped right through the mountain's anti-Servant barrier field. The battle itself left the Temple as kindling and the ground around it gouged with massive scars. And we get to see precisely none of this titanic conflict.
Anime: The anime follows the "Fate" route, which by itself can't do Fate/stay night justice, but the episode/continuity limits don't allow you do two routes and tell a coherent story. So they took "Fate", added a few scenes and events from "Unlimited Blade Works". They also threw in the odd reference to "Heaven's Feel" as well- namely the revelation that Rin and Sakura are sisters.
"Unlimited Blade Works" film: Especially noticeable, where some of the romantic undertones between Shirou and Rin is lost, as well as merging separate visits to locations in the original into a single very eventful one and things happening for different (but more easily explainable) reasons.
Punny Name: The main theme song of Fate/stay night is "This Illusion", and when it was remixed for the anime, it's name was changed to "Disillusion". If said out loud, they sound almost the same, while meaning the exact opposite of each other.
Road Cone: With three different story paths, it's only natural that adaptations of the series would leave out some things. Both the anime and (to a certain extent) the manga are based on "Fate", though the movie is based on "Unlimited Blade Works".
Rule Of Cool: The order of the day for the "Unlimited Blade Works" film. Notably, Shirou deflects both Archer's and Gil's sword-bullets with Implausible Fencing Powers rather than using his own sword-bullets as in the original route.
100% Completion: You have to complete all three routes for the new splash screen. You can also accomplish every Tiger Dojo for other bonuses.
Automatic New Game: The game will start up at the beginning of the prologue narrated by Rin until you finish it and reach the main story narrated by Shirou, at which point you start up at the title screen.
Eroge: Even if the hentai is hidden amidst hours of non-sexual gameplay, Fate/stay night is an full-fledged eroge with one to three/four H-scenes for each routes.
"Unlimited Blade Works" has a True and Good End. Getting the Good End requires juggling around Saber and Rin's affection points.
"Heaven's Feel" has a True and a Normal End. Which you get depends on the final choice you make.
There are 40 Bad Ends. In "Realta Nua", getting them all unlocks the Last Episode.
Stupidity Is the Only Option: This is the rule in every Type-Moon Visual Novel- unless a choice is specifically hinted at as being right or wrong, the more dangerous choice is always the correct one. The Tiger Dojo sometimes lampshades this: "Go back to the previous choice and try choosing the reckless, immature choice!"
Violation of Common Sense: The choices you have to make sometimes are the least sensible and immature, placing you directly in danger. Made worse by the fact that you are, almost without fail, scolded by other characters for making the idiotic choices.
Alternate Continuity: Possibly with itself. Archer's Mysterious Pastis known to at least resemble the "Fate" scenario also followed by the anime, but how much is unclear. Essentially all routes and endings are alternate continuities, with Fate/hollow ataraxia taking place in yet another continuity. Also, Zelretch appears from an alternate continuity in one route, just to say hi. When speaking about this, Nasu affirms: "They're parallel sort of. But if Zelretch was observing, it'd become true, and my feelings on the matter is that I'd rather two routes disappear if one was true. If all of these became possible at the same time, the other routes would become meaningless."
Anime Catholicism: Kotomine works for the Church, which in this case is a secret part of the actual Catholic Churchnote tasked with destroying non human entities. Standard issue weaponry includes magical bible verses and thrown swords.
The Emiya household is very big, having a main building, external building, a storehouse and a lot of free terrain (In fact, Saber even wonders about using the free terrain for growing vegetables and raising animals like chicken and pigs to always have fresh food in Fate Hollow Ataraxia, Shirou of course refuses).
The Tohsaka mansion is very big and Rin is already used to people thinking her house is a haunted mansion.
The Matou mansion is even bigger than the Tohsaka mansion and looks sufficiently gloomy to make it abundantly clear nothing good is going on in there.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: A wide variety of legendary heroes from potentially any mythology who can be summoned as Servants. Other types of familiars, skeletal zombies, vampires, parasitic magic-devouring worms, spirits and dragons all exist in this universe.
Medal of Dishonor: The Sealing Designation of the Mage's Association is a title of the "greatest honor" given to a magus who develops an ability that is both ground-breaking and utterly unique to their body. Those awarded this title are promptly dissected and their remains preserved for future study. Most Seal Designates choose voluntary exile in response and try their best not to attract attention.
Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: The plot is based around major figures from Arthurian, Babylonian, Celtic, Persian, Greek and Japanese myth fighting each other to the death as part of an arcane magic ritual.
Urban Fantasy: And all the magic shenaningans take place in modern Japan.
Artifact of Doom: The Holy Grail. Due to events from the Third Grail War, it is inevitable that it will cause great calamity if activated.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Discussed. The Holy Grail is an artifact theoretically capable of granting any wish, but due to its corruption, it will grant that wish in the most destructive manner possible.
Betty and Veronica: Across the whole franchises Saber and Rin frequently performs this task. Saber as Betty, Rin as Veronica.
Other significant variants are also Sakura/Rin, Sakura/Rider.
Bigger Bad: Angra Mainyu, the source of the Grail's corruption.
Blood Magic: The runes in the ritual used to summon servants are normally drawn in blood.
The first ending possible results in Berserker leaving Shirou a disembodied head, which Ilya will keep alive and torture as long as she pleases.
The fate of the other orphans from the fire ten years ago. They resemble nothing so much as rotting, bug-infested, limbless corpses... but they're still alive and awareso Gilgamesh can feed on their prana.
When Gilgamesh uses Shinji as the Grail's core, his body is transformed into an enormous mound of cancerous tissue leaking cursed mud.
Zouken Matou's method for prolonging his life involves using his crest worms and magecraft to rework a human victim's body into one he can use.
When Archer's arm begins to overtake Shirou's body, it causes Archer's Reality Marble to manifest inside Shirou, resulting in dozens of blades erupting bloodily from inside his body.
Rule Breaker: In "Heaven's Feel", Caster is taken out of the game early on. Since she and her Rule Breaker have played a major role in the previous route, most people put her out of their minds. But then, literally at the last day of the route... her Noble Phantasm, Rule Breaker, breaks Sakura's shackles to Angra Mainyu.
The Azoth dagger: A near last-minute addition in "Fate" that Shirou uses to kill Kotomine, shows up again in "Heaven's Feel", supposedly as a tool for Shirou to project Zelretch's Gem Sword. However, its real importance was Shirou using it to kill Saber Alter.
Rin's pendant: She used it to heal Shirou in the prologue. Archer's version of it, which he carried all his life and after (and returned to Rin in the prologue), turned out to be the catalyst for his summoning. In "Unlimited Blade Works", Shirou returns his version of the pendant to Rin, giving the latter the final proof that Archer is Shirou's future self. However, in "Heaven's Feel", Shirou's version of the pendant turned out to have the tiniest bit of magical energy left in it, which in the True End allowed his soul, newly-revived by Ilya's sacrifice and the Third Sorcery, to hold on until Rider could rescue him. The pendant also probably anchored Shirou's soul to the material world; Rin commented that Rider "plucked Shirou out" of the rubble of the cavern two weeks after it had collapsed.
Conveniently Orphaned: Not a single remotely major character has living parents, and several (including the main character) are orphaned twice over. Not only that, but those who actually have something passing for surrogate parents would much rather that they didn't.
The Corruption: The contents of the current Grail, since the Third Grail War. The Einzbern family summoned the forbidden Avenger class as their Servant, causing him to be trapped into the Grail after his defeat due to his complicated circumstance. Since Avenger embodies all the Evils of the World, the corruption takes over the Grail as well.
Cryptic Background Reference: The events of the Third Grail War are pretty vague; pretty much all that is known is that the Edelfelts summoned good and evil versions of the same Saber and that the Einzberns summoned Avenger.
Cue the Sun: The True End of each route usually features this as a sign of hope and new beginnings after the tribulations of the War.
The Devil: In "Unlimited Blade Works", we learn that Angra Mainyu, the devil in Zoroastrianism, lives inside the Holy Grail and has corrupted it. As is explained in "Heaven's Feel" and further elaborated upon in hollow ataraxia, it turns out that Angra Mainyu isn't the Devil — he's a Servant whose legend was born of a ritual where a single man was ritually sacrificed to personify all the the sins of his fellow humans so he'd absolve them by being killed. In the Third Holy Grail war, when Angra Mainyu, summoned as Avenger, got killed because he was a horribly weak Servant, the Grail identified him as a human rather than a servant and tried to fulfill his wish. Considering that the Holy Grail is an omnipotent device whose entire purpose is to seek and grant wishes and that Angra Mainyu is the personification of the world's wish for a concrete form of all evil... Let's just say it doesn't turn out well.
Dysfunction Junction: Everyone's backstory involves some past tragedy that has scarred them for life and supplied them with a fatal flaw. Each heroine's route takes time to explore said flaw and eventually have her get over it, but Shirou's Chronic Hero Syndrome is what really takes center stage.
Elemental Powers: Very exceptional ones, they are attributes linked to the "Origin", explained in Kara no Kyoukai; Shirou has "Sword", Rin has all the basic five ("Average One"), and Sakura has "Imaginary Numbers" and artificially "Binding".
Food Porn: Lengthy segments of the Visual Novel are devoted to Shirou cooking, often along with Sakura. The process of making the food is usually presented in detail.
Foreshadowing: Loads of it, and in the most unlikely or innocuous places, too. For example, a major reveal in "Heaven's Feel" note Sakura's "training" regimen is foreshadowed in the Mini-Theater you get by completing all Tiger Dojos in "Fate".
Four Temperament Ensemble: The leading ladies of the different routes exhibit this: you have Saber as melancholy, Rin as choleric, Sakura as phlegmatic, and Ilya (originally intended to be the fourth heroine) as sanguine.
Gambit Pileup: The Fifth Grail War is complicated due to plots by Zouken, Kirei, Saber, Caster, the Einzbern family, Gilgamesh, Counter-Guardian EMIYA, and Avenger all being executed at the same time. Differences between each route result in specific gambits being of more concern, and some being completely irrelevant.
Gorn: Not so much visual but mostly written, detailed descriptions of blood and heavy injuries can be found throughout the Visual Novel.
Gender Bender: Other than being a gender flipped King Arthur, Saber was physically turned into a male by Merlin's magic during her reign as king. This makes her a gender bender gender flip character.
Hermetic Magic: Summoning Servants and various rituals connected to the Grail and Shirou's projection magic involve runes and elaborate invocations.
The Holy Grail's power comes from absorbing the souls of the heroic spirits who died in the war.
Servants can consume human souls in order to replenish their prana, though most traditional Spirits will find the action to be beneath their dignity and may require a Command Seal in order to do so. Caster and Rider both resorted to this at the start of the War due to their Masters lacking prana.
Jackass Genie: Due to Angra Maiyuu's influence, the Holy Grail will twist any wish made to it in a way that will kill or hurt as many humans as possible.
Limited Wardrobe: Almost everyone has, at most, two sets of clothes (typically school, armor, armor/casual, or school uniform/casual, or in Ilya's case, cold-weather/normal). Other, non-standard outfits are Ilya's Dress of Heaven, Rin's bedclothes, and the occasional birthday suit.
Luminescent Blush: The three main heroines, Saber, Rin and Sakura, all have a blushing portrait in cases of embarassment.
Magic A Is Magic A: The Nasuverse has an extensive set of rules regarding what is possible and what is not possible and how people meet the energy requirements for what they do. For example, even with magecraft it's normally not possible to make something out of nothing. Nor can the output of energy be greater than what you put into it, meaning most mages have to power their spells with the energy around them rather than the energy inside. However, once you have this sort of baseline rule, you then have people who seem to break the rules by going outside the normal system, such as the True Magics or Reality Marble users, both of which are quite unnatural.
Magic Missile: The Gandr spell sounds like a gun, and even leaves bullet holes behind.
Mêlée à Trois: The Holy Grail War is fashioned as one: 7 Masters, their eventual associates, 7 Servants. To reach the end of the War, 6 Servants must die. The Master's death is not required, but killing a Master is the fastest way to dispose of a Servant who doesn't have the Independant Action skill. A Servant who survives his Master's death long enough can take a new contract, and under some conditions a Master can have a contract with more than one Servant.
Rin's first order of business to her Servant Archer, a heroic spirit of mighty power ? "Clean up this mess." Then the next morning, the first thing Archer does is make tea. Damn good tea according to Rin.
Initially, Mundane Utility is the only utility Shirou's magic powers have. It really puts his levels in badass in perspective when you consider that at the beginning of the story, Shirou was using his magic to...repair household appliances.
Older Is Better: A very strongly adhered-to rule. Older magi are capable of things modern magic users can only dream of. It's also one of the reasons Gilgamesh is so powerful: he possesses the Platonic ideal of almost every weapon-type Noble Phantasm that ever was or will be, meaning that they're all at least one rank more powerful than the actual versions that were used by the Heroic Spirits.
If you listen closely to the background music whenever Shirou's TV is telling the local news, you can hear some music from Tsukihime, another Type-MoonVisual Novel.
During one of the Tiger Dojo chibis, there's a Touhou reference when Sakura and Rin briefly have a cute fight with each other, complete with rainbow-colored bullets everywhere and a side-shot of both of them vertically.
Summoning Ritual: The Holy Grail War System provides the power behing the ritual required for acquiring a Servant. The Servant will usually respond to the call if the magus has an artifact associated with him.
Anytime "Emiya" starts playing, you know Shirou is going to do something epic or an important battle is going to happen.
"Sword of Promised Victory" plays whenever the Holy Sword or a similar Noble Phantasm is about to be used.
"Into the Night" (The title music) plays when the Final Boss is about to get a beatdown — it's an even more reliable power-up than "Emiya".
"Premonition of a Storm" is one of those "Shit's going down!" songs that can pump it up. Sadly, it's not in the original Visual Novel, but a new musique of the Fate/stay night Realta Nua version.
There Can Be Only One: The very concept of the Grail War is that only one magus can have his wish fulfilled. The Grail provides the individuals who desire it with Command Spells. Things are far more complicated.
Translator Microbes: The Holy Grail acts as one. For the Servants, it implants a basic level of knowledge about the time period into which they are summoned. This prevents inconveniences such as, for example, a Servant from Ancient Greece being freaked out by cars or cellphones. Pretty convenient considering a Servant can come from across time and from any culture around the globe.
Two-Teacher School: The only staff we ever see at school are Soichiro Kuzuki and Taiga Fujimura, despite the apparent size of the school.
Not even a rumor about the war is going on, even when things that couldn't be covered up or downplayed easily (sonic booms from attacks, shining golden light shooting into the sky at a flying horse, etc) happen. Justified by a cover-up done by The Church and the Magical Association, but we never see it in action during the Visual Novel.
Played for Laughs on a smaller scale, when Rin gets so angry at Shirou that she shatters her "perfect student/school idol" image in front of everyone to shout at him. Everybody stares... then go back to what they were doing, subconsciously repressing those memories to maintain their "perfect" image of her. This happens on two separate occasions.
Witch Species: Magic in the Nasuverse is often genetically inherited through bloodlines. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, though, as people from mundane families (like Shirou or Ciel) can be born with magic circuits, and it's a plot point that one bloodline has slowly lost all of its power over generations. It's also possible to artificially create or increase magical potential.
Would Hurt a Child: Used in all three routes to show how evil the route's major antagonist really is.
Fate: Kotomine has been using the other orphans of the Fuyuki fire as living prana batteries for ten years, though "living" is entirely toogenerous a term.
Unlimited Blade Works: Gilgamesh tearing out Ilya's heart.
Heaven's Feel: Everything Zouken did with regards to raising Sakura.