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Light Novel / Fate/Zero

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Top register from left to right (Masters): Ryuunosuke Uryuu, Waver Velvet, Tokiomi Tohsaka, Kiritsugu Emiya, Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald, Kariya Matou, Kirei Kotomine; Bottom circle, counterclockwise from upper left (Servants): Berserker, Archer, Lancer, Saber, Caster, Rider, Assassin.

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

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 mages — the Einzbern, Makiri, and Tohsaka — conducted a dark and bloody ritual; Heaven's Feel, the Holy Grail War of Fuyuki. A battle between seven mages, 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 family 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 Holy Grail War 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 family.


Fate/Zero is a collaboration, a series of four illustrated novels written by Gen Urobuchi (of nitro+ and Madoka Magica 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 Novel Fate/stay night. The first volume was released in December 2006 and 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 illustrated by Shinjirō was serialized between 2010 and 2017, and a TV series (by ufotable of The Garden of Sinners 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, in both English audio and Japanese audio with subtitles. The English dub by Aniplex USA, VIZ Media's and Neon Alley service is also currently available on Netflix.

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.

These books provide examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: In the anime.
    • Various examples of architecture, vehicles, attack effects, and Berserker in general.
    • The odd organic character/creature, including Matou's worms in Episode 1, the tentacles in Episode 2, and Saber in certain shots during Episodes 22 and 23.
  • The '90s: The Fourth Grail War is set sometime in the 1990s. A mention of a certain U.S. President places the story at 1994 or later.
  • Ability Mixing: Two variations:
    • Kiritsugu possess a magic called Initiate Time Control, which allows him alter his body's speed depending on how high he needs to. However it's initially Awesome, but Impractical because using it damages his body due to such a thing. He eventually gets around this by using Avalon since it makes him Nigh-Invulnerable.
    • Kotomine uses a martial arts style called Baji Quan, which allows him to augment his strength with very minimal amounts of magic. Later he uses the Command Seals given by his dead father to augment his abilities, allowing to initially No-Sell Kiritsugu's Anti-Magic bullets.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Kariya isn't going to land any modeling gigs any time soon, but 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.
  • Adaptational Modesty: The manga features a fair bit more nudity than the anime. Most strikingly, Iskander's no-pants scene in the anime gives him a pair of mysteriously-acquired boxer briefs. In the manga, he's got no underwear, so we pretty much see his junk.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • At one point, one of Rin's friends is kidnapped by Uryuu 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 Uryuu, 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.
    • The anime expands on the flashbacks to Kiritsugu's past, particularly Shirley's relationships with both preteen Kiritsugu and his father.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • The anime leaves out a lot of Gilgamesh's reason for obsessing over Saber, which is mainly because she reminded him of his Dead Sidekick Enkidu, who was Gilgamesh's Morality Chain in life.
    • Berserker's motivations. While the anime, like the light novels, eventually reveals that Lancelot was essentially trying to commit Suicide by Cop by obsessively targeting Saber as Berserker, it skips the story of Lancelot and Guinevere's affair in the Fate universe, and how it led to the fall of Arturia's kingdom. As a result, the reason behind Berserker's guilt complex is left a little unclear.
  • Aesop Collateral Damage: Kiritsugu learns that one man living by and cultivating the best intention imaginable isn't justification for its realization in this life, and the lesson comes at the price of over 300 people either burning alive or dying from wounds made by falling debris, as the Grail - being the fullness of desire itself - rejects him by his decision to reject it, and allows the desire of the self-unaware Kirei to be granted instead.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Rider roughly ruffles Waver's hair while they're leaving Caster's destroyed lair, which just annoys him. In the light novel, it's explained that he thinks Rider is deliberately trying to make him feel short.
  • Aimlessly Seeking Happiness: Kirei's problem is he's been selected as a contestant for the Holy Grail War, and if he wins he gets to wish for whatever he desires. But having lived a passionless life with nothing appealing to him, Kirei doesn't know what would make him happy. It takes him being paired with the indulgent king Gilgamesh, who's tasted every pleasure in life, to awaken Kirei to his subconscious sadism and discover real happiness from witnessing others suffer.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • 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.
    • After agreeing to quit the war, Kayneth 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.
  • All for Nothing: Thanks to Foregone Conclusion, very few positives result of the Grail War, with most major characters dead or dying, and several antagonists and the future issues in Fate/stay night being set up. Kiritsugu is hit especially hard with this, as everything that he stands for falls apart as his sacrifices and loss ultimately mean nothing due to the corrupted Grail, slapping him with a Downer Ending that will kill him in short time. The only positive he manages to eek out? Saving a certain red-haired boy in the aftermath...
  • 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. 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 loves Sola-Ui and does whatever he can to make the best of their Arranged Marriage. Sola-Ui becomes obsessed with Lancer, who's summoned as Kayneth's Servant. And if loyalty is a type of love, Lancer rejects Sola-Ui because he's devoted to his Master Kayneth, despite receiving only disdain (at best) in return.
    • Averted with Kiritsugu and Irisviel. Until she dies.
    • In his own arrogant and dark way, Gilgamesh comes to love the idealistically tragic Saber, but she wants nothing to do with someone so cruel and selfish. Unfortunately for Saber, her rejection just makes Gilgamesh want her more; in fact, he views it as part of her appeal.
  • All Myths Are True:
    • Heroes of history and legend are enshrined as Heroic Spirits, eligible to be summoned as super-powerful Servants in the war.
    • 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.
    • Likewise, the details on the previous Grail Wars. The Third is mentioned as having taken place in World War II, with Nazi agents getting in the way of the Grail.
    • 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.
  • Animal Espionage: Kiritsugu Emiya at a few points uses bat familiars with cameras rigged to their chests for recon, because the cameras (not being alive) can see through the illusion spell of other Mages.
  • Anime Catholicism: Certain high-ranking members of the Church are quite young, married with children, demon-hunting warriors, and fluent in Japanese.
  • Anyone Can Die: Every other Servant must die to power the Grail so it can grant the victor's wish. There Can Be Only One, after all.
  • Arrogant God vs. Raging Monster: Gilgamesh is by far the most powerful of the Servants invoked, and in general, of the whole Fate universe. Still, even if not capable of beating him, the anger-crazed Berserker is one of the few able to not only keep up with him, but of angering Gilgamesh enough to make him lose his cool, forcing him to open the Gate of Babylon almost entirely. Arriving to a point where Gilgamesh has to struggle to even land a hit on him, while Berserker struggles to even get near Gilgamesh.
  • The Artifact: The RPG-style character sheets for the Servants as introduced in stay night were explicitly the Grail magically presenting Shirou with this information in a way he could easily understand, due to his familiarity with video games. Nothing about Kiritsugu's background, along with Zero's earlier setting in time, would suggest that this also applies to him, but the character sheets are an iconic quirk of the franchise.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Holy Grail was so thoroughly corrupted during the Third Grail War that it will misinterpret any wish as one for the extinction of humanity.
  • Artificial Human: A homunculus is used as the vessel of the Holy Grail.
  • Badass Army: Rider's Noble Phantasm can materialize the army he led in life, every member of which is a Heroic Spirit. Not that this helps them fight Archer, who kills them all effortlessly.
  • Badass Baritone: Tokiomi Tohsaka, Kiritsugu Emiya, and Kirei Kotomine are all competent mages and/or fighters with deep voices.
  • Badass Cape:
    • Rider, but his design is just badass in general. Just look at the guy!
    • Gilgamesh has a badass red cape as well, though the upper half of it is inside his armor.
  • Badass Family: The Einzberns and the Tohsakas. The Matous kinda counted, before all their magic disappeared.
  • 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 wears one.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Kirei and his servant Gilgamesh are the last pair standing at the end of the Holy Grail War. They also get their wish for destruction, albeit not on the scale they would hope for.
  • Bait-and-Switch Character Intro: When we're introduced to Caster, a legendary figure accidentally summoned by Ryunosuke Uryuu, a depraved serial killer. To Uryuu's displeasure, Caster speaks kindly to the child whose family was murdered for the summoning ritual, telling the boy that he's free to go. The boy gets to the door...and is then grabbed and brutally ripped to pieces by ethereal tentacles. Caster then reveals that he just wanted the boy to experience a Hope Spot, as it makes the realization of their death even more satisfying. Naturally, this establishes Caster as an even worse villain than his summoner.
  • 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As Kiritsugu learns, the Holy Grail has been corrupted to work on this principle: any wish made on it will be granted through destruction and suffering. Kiritsugu wants the Holy Grail in order to grant world peace, but when he finally has the chance to make his wish the corrupted Grail explains how it intends to grant it: by killing off all of mankind but Kiritsugu and his daughter, because humans would always fight. Then it's subverted when Kiritsugu destroys the Grail.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: Used as a vampire infection vector by Odd Vořák, a Dead Apostle mage in Kiritsugu's backstory.
  • Been There, Shaped History: All of the Servants are, by definition of their nature as Heroic Spirits, people who are well-known for the historical events they were a part of in life before being summoned by the Masters.
  • Be Yourself: Deconstructed with Kirei, who, with encouragement from Gilgamesh, finds that he enjoys causing and watching the suffering of others.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: There initially appears to be between Ryuunosuke Uryuu and Caster (Bluebeard/Gilles de Rais), and Tokiomi Tohsaka; the deadliest competitors of the Fourth Holy Grail War. However, Kirei, Gilgamesh, and Zouken are, as in Fate/stay night, the true masterminds manipulating the war to get the Holy Grail.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Several. Rider is a favorite for it. Even Gilgamesh gets one, saving Saber from Berserker during the fight with Caster's monster. But he was mad at Berserker...
  • Big "NO!": Saber, as she's forced to swing down Excalibur on the Grail.
  • 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".
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
  • Bland-Name Product: There's a "Ramasonic" brand Jumbotron in Episode 12 of the anime.
  • Blood from Every Orifice: Happens to Irisviel when she gets corrupted by the Holy Grail. Though instead of blood, she bleeds Angra Mainyu's mud.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Several characters get this when they are severely injured, sometimes before they die.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The manga adaptation makes 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 taken Up to Eleven via Adaptation Expansion by giving more background on what Uryuu likes to do with his victims, as well as graphically portraying young Sakura's brutal rape by the Matou Crest Worms.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Glen Mackenzie asks Waver if he remembers watching the stars with him when he was younger. After Waver says he remembers, Glen informs him that his real grandson never used to watch the stars with him. He forgives him, though, since it's not like their real grandson ever visits anyway.
  • Breather Episode: "Rin's Big Adventure" isn't nearly as light as the name makes it out to be, but is still an aside that has basically nothing to do with the Grail War and while it has to do with a murderer kidnapping children, Rin manages to survive and find her friend alive. The following episode, "Discussing the Grail," is a straighter example. Three servants spend most of the episode waxing philosophical with each other, despite being nominal enemies.
  • Broad Strokes: Officially, this story is acknowledged as taking place in a slight Alternate Continuity from Fate/stay night - not because of a differing outcome from the Fourth Holy Grail War, but instead because certain details in Zero don't exactly mesh with how characters in stay night described the Fourth War. For example, Saber mentions drying up the Mion River with her usage of Excalibur in stay night, but when she uses it here to annihilate Caster's gigantic horror the river does not dry up. The anime adaptation does take pains to line up with is version of Unlimited Blade Works and Heavens Feel, though.
  • Call-Forward:
    • 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.
    • The magic circle Irisviel and Saber draw in the shed of the operations base Kiritsugu provided them will end up saving Shirou's skin from Lancer ten years later by serving as the summoning circle for Saber.
  • 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:
    • Caster sees Jeanne d'Arc when he dies, who would go on to play a major role in Fate/Apocrypha.
    • In the anime's first ending sequence, the art of Saber at the Battle of Camlann features her killing her daughter, Mordred. Like Jeanne d'Arc, Mordred was a main character in Fate/Apocrypha.
    • Episode 18 of the anime highlights Kiritsugu's backstory where his childhood friend Shirley inadvertently causes an epidemic of Dead Apostles on their island. Among the responding mages sent by the Mage's Association is fire mage 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.
    • In the manga version, Irisviel is discussing the Executioners and we are shown a panel with Ciel using Black Keys.
  • 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. Most of the Masters and Servants are easy on the eyes.
  • 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, who doesn't know or care about the War, breaks the rule about preserving the Masquerade. Everyone else breaks the rule about not fighting each other until Caster is beaten). Although 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, the only other two who are even still alive.
  • Chekhov's Skill: During Kiritsugu's first scene after coming to Fuyuki City, he practices reloading his Thompson Contender, noting that the process takes about two seconds. This speed is put to the test during his final battle with Kirei, where on two occasions he needs to reload the gun before his opponent can get back into melee range.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Joked about in the bonus materials, where it's noted that being played by Hikaru Midorikawa severely reduces Lancer's probability of survival.
  • 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.
  • Cliché Storm: In-universe example, when Kirei Kotomine frames Kariya Matou for Tokiomi Tohaska's death with his wife, Aoi as a witness.
  • Cliffhanger: The first season of the anime ends as Saber, Rider, and Lancer are about to engage Caster and his Cthulhu knockoff, leaving them hanging until the second season picks up where it left off.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Kiritsugu specializes in killing mages, and he does not fight by their rules. This means that he will use modern weapons, misdirection, hostage taking, and lying to get his way. Kirei comes in a close second, since he figures out a way to abuse the rules and similarly lacks compunction about going after his opponent's loved ones.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu:
    • Averted during the fight between Assassin and Rider, in which the former can't take the latter's extremely powerful army.
    • Played straight with the Assassins. They had to split the power and combat prowess of the regular Assassin-class Servantnote  between all personas somewhat equally.
  • 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 Grail War have consequences for the Fifth.
  • Cool Versus Awesome:
    • Episode 14 features Ancient Indian flying machine vs. Possessed F-15 fighter jet-turned-Noble Phantasm.
    • The Finale features A Sinister Minister with throwing swords, command seals, and superhuman kung-fu (Kirei) versus a Badass Longcoat-wearing assassin with a Hand Cannon, Healing Factor, and time manipulation powers. At the same time, we have King Arthur versus Sir Lancelot.
  • The Corrupter: Gilgamesh does this to Kirei, though not in the typical fashion. He coaxes the loyal, selfless, but otherwise apathetic and Extreme Doormat Church Executor to find himself and be true to his desires, making Kirei into the sadistic bastard who tortures others For the Evulz that he is in Fate/stay night.
  • The Corruption: The blackness flowing from the corrupted Grail, a manifestation of "all the world's evil".
  • Cradling Your Kill: This is Kiritsugu's method of killing women. Before he destroys the plane Natalia is flying, he lets her divulge what she feels about him, her current state, and her hopes for the future via radio; under his orders, Maiya waits until Sola-Ui sits on Kayneth's lap before she shoots both of them through the back, and she kills her instantly; finally, within the Grail, after deciding to kill the apparition of Illya, he caresses her head, tells her he'll never pick buds with her again, and says goodbye before he shoots her through her chin and brain, and, after the apparition of Irisviel protests, he grabs her by the throat but allows her to protest and curse him before he snaps her neck.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Kiritsugu (he... really took a lot of things into account, to say the least) and Kotomine (seriously? Kevlar-reinforced priests' robes?).
  • Cry Laughing: Once Kotomine sees that the burning of Fuyuki City and three hundred of its inhabitants is his most practical and truest desire, as realized by the Grail, he laughs; then, he laughs harder; then, he cries as he laughs. The contradiction entertains him so thoroughly that he resolves to repeat his participation in the next Grail War, so as to see what else he's hiding beneath his head.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Tokiomi vs. Kariya is very one-sided. One is a man who has spent a lifetime diligently learning to master the secrets of magic. The other is a runaway who had just one year to prepare with forbidden magecraft implanted in him by his sadistic ancestor that his body can hardly take, and who is too berserk with pain and rage to use even that properly. Tokiomi hardly has to lift a finger to defend against all the swarms of bugs that Kariya can muster, and then send him falling from the roof engulfed in flames.
    • 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 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). It only actually happens, though, when he deems Rider worthy of his judgment and pulls out a couple of stops. Gen Urobuchi says that he could single-handedly end the fourth Holy Grail War in a single night if he bothered to go all-out.
  • Darker and Edgier: Lampshaded in the authors' notes section, and in commparison with its predecessor, Fate/stay night. While FSN translates the base elements of the original eroge game into its narrative (i.e., two Masters attempting to kill The Protagonist at the outset culminates in their disqualification from the Grail War and in their living with The Protagonist in competition with each other for his love), FZ is a pure plot of support and setup, specifically dealing women and children (of which, in FSN, two of the Masters are both) the worst fates within its narrative.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: Painfully, horrifically, and blatantly. Caster and Ryunosuke are serial child-murderers who treat their crimes like art.
  • Death Seeker: Ryuunosuke without realizing it. He is a serial killer specializing in children, because he finds the organs and blood of his victims beautiful. Only after Kiritsugu shoots him through the chest does he realize that the perfect, beautiful blood and organs he had been searching for all along were his own.
  • Deconstruction: What does it really take to be a hero of justice, and just how far would you be willing to go to find out?
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Kiritsugu's Origin Bullets contain his own powdered ribs, which he uses sparingly with his Contender. Because each bullet contains Kiritsugu's origin of severing and binding, a bullet used on a mage will irreparably ruin their magic circuits. Most targets are permanently crippled or killed by what this does to their body.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Kiritsugu's father is taken completely offguard when Kiritsugu suddenly stabs him with intent to kill. He's too shocked to get up before Kiritsugu fires a couple of rounds into him.
  • 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. His line of "Then I may as well" carries implications of Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny.
    • The entire subplot between Gilgamesh and Kotomine, in which Gilgamesh attempts to be a Closet Key to get Kotomine to fall prey to his carnal urges. Granted, the closet here turns out to be of morality, but the point is illustrated through the use of metaphorical Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny undertones.
  • Doomed by Canon: Pointed out early on that you probably don't want to get too attached to anyone. While the characters who appear in stay night are safe, everyone else is fair game. By the end, the only people left from the main cast are Kiritsugu, Kirei, Waver Velvet, Gilgamesh, and Saber.
  • Downer Ending: Foregone Conclusion means it's not going to go well for many characters.
    • 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. Finally, he is cursed by the Grail, gradually losing his powers and senses until he dies several years later.
    • Saber's ideals get so thoroughly crushed by Kiritsugu's ruthless actions, Rider pointing out the mistakes of her rule and seeing one of her closest friends driven to madness from a decision she made that she changes her wish from redoing her reign to having someone else rule in her place instead.
    • Kiritsugu's 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 as 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.
    • The Grail, which is damaged, corrupted, and 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.
    • And to top it all off, Rin's mother, Aoi, ends up wheelchair bound and brain-damaged due to the oxygen deprivation she suffered from being strangled by Kariya, not understanding what her husband being dead truly means, and being reduced to someone her daughter must care for.
  • 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!
    • During his climactic fight against Kirei, Kiritsugu dual-wields his Calico and Contender until he runs out of ammo for the former. It's also presented in a fairly realistic manner, with Kiritsugu firing one gun at a time, and switching hands depending on what he wants to do; the Calico for broad sprays to keep his opponent occupied, and his Contender for precision work and firepower.
  • 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 mage's veritable fortress. How does Kiritsugu deal with this? Apply a small amount of C4 to the supports and bring the entire place down.
  • Dying Dream: Irisviel has an extremely creepy one about the Grail having become corrupted.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Alexander the Great, a.k.a Rider dies the glorious, poetic, and fitting death of which he was historically deprived during the height of his achievement in his heroically-qualifying life.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Jeanne d'Arc, who later shows up in Fate/Apocrypha, appears in Caster's final moments.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Summoned by Caster in the form of tentacled monster hordes and a massive, Cthulhu-like beast. Normally, a mage only summons something of a certain level of strength or they can't control it, so at first the others don't understand... until they realize that Caster couldn't care less if the horror he summoned is under control or not.
    • Then there's Angra Mainyu, the corrupted Servant-turned-conceptual entity corrupting the Holy Grail. When it just partially manifests, the thing appears as black mud that literally curses and burns everything in its path. Which is what causes the Great Fuyuki Fire. If fully manifested, the thing will probably wipe humanity off the face of the Earth.
  • Enemy Mine: Crops up several times during the early part of the Holy Grail War. Saber and Lancer are the most common allies, and Caster is the most common target.
  • Ensemble Cast: Although Kiritsugu is officially the main protagonist, the omniscient third-person narration provides enough rotational Character Focus on the others that Kiritsugu spends as much time relegated to the background as he does the lead.
  • Episode Zero: The Beginning: This series is a prequel to Fate/stay night, portraying events alluded to in the latter.
  • Episode of the Dead: Kiritsugu's backstory in Episodes 18 and 19 involves his father's research inadvertently causing a vampire outbreak on Alimango Island that took his First Love as its Patient Zero. However, the situation plays out very much like a Zombie Apocalypse because the contagion only induced low-level vampiric traits on its victims that makes them act much more like mindless zombies, with tropes like The Plague, Horror Hunger, Zombie Infectee, Heroic Sacrifice, and Trapped with Monster Plot making an appearance. Played With because, despite these creatures only appearing in those two episodes, the incident is very much Played for Drama because it completely shapes Kiritsugu into The Unfettered battle-hardened mage he is in the present, someone who sees his child self's inability to Mercy Kill Shirley as his greatest failure.
  • 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-Ui with a Steyr AUG.
  • Extra-Long Episode: The first episode is 47 minutes long, which is about double the length of the subsequent episodes.
  • Faceless Goons: Bluebeard's summoned tentacle-things from Another Dimension, literally without faces.
  • Faith–Heel Turn: The novel explains how Kirei transitioned from an upstanding Executioner to the Sinister Minister seen in Fate/stay night.
  • Fan Disservice: Seeing Sakura (who is underage, mind you) naked and crawling with monstrous worms is not a pleasant sight.
  • 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 as opposed to a spirit given bodily form by his master's mana.
  • Fatal Flaw: Almost every character has one key personality flaw, but most outwardly obvious are Kiritsugu's determination to Shoot the Dog and sacrifice what he loves for ideals that turn out to be empty, and Arturia's belief that the fall of her country was her fault, and that she has to erase her mistake no matter what the cost to herself.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Aoi after she suffers brain damage as a result of being strangled by Kariya. She is reduced to a state similar to that of a young child, unaware of her husband's death and still believing Sakura is living with them. To add onto it, Rin is forced to become her own mother's caretaker until her death, as she is the only mentally sound one still in the family.
    • The children kidnapped by Caster and his Master are subjected to pungent emotional torment with physical torture and disfigurement almost universally accompanying it before they are murdered (this final act being painted with several different colours).
  • 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.
  • Final Exchange: When Kiritsugu rejects the Grail after finding out its true nature, Kirei protests, wondering how Kiritsugu could reject it after sacrificing so much. Kiritsugu responds with a gunshot to the heart.
    Kirei: It's so foolish I don't understand it! Give the damn thing to me then! You may not think you need it, but I most certainly do!
    Kiritsugu:'re the fool... I cannot understand.
  • Firing One-Handed: Kiritsugu frequently one-hands both his .30-06 Thompson Contender and the Calico submachinegun, the latter on full-auto.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Mostly Lost in Translation, but Rider's speech can smack of the Japanese equivalent of this at times, and it is pretty much the default mode of speech for Gilgamesh. 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.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the scene where Saber and Irisviel get their passports checked at the airport, you can see their fake documents say they were born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Two episodes later Caster will confuse Saber for Joan of Arc, who's widely known by the nickname of "The Maid of Orléans."
  • Functional 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".
  • Ghost Amnesia: In one of the Einzbern Consultation Room shorts, the recently deceased Lancer can't remember how he died. Zecchan initially convinces him that he died in a very heroic and fair duel.
  • A God Am I: Gilgamesh considers the whole world his garden and considers the other Heroic Spirits, including King Arthur and Alexander the Great, as peons and false kings compared to him. He is partially justified in-universe by his status as the first Heroic Spirit and "King of Heroes," and by the fact that his power does, in fact, dwarf that of all the other Heroic Spirits.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Rider charges into Saber's castle without any prior warning... and invites Saber to go drinking with him and Gilgamesh. Somewhat subverted in that Gil has ulterior motives for visiting, and mostly just trolls Rider and Saber while is there anyway.
  • Gorn: The manga displays the grisly "artwork" of Caster's lab in graphic detail.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Ultimately, the Grail itself, corrupted by Angra Mainyu.
    • In the long term, Matou Zouken, who bides his time and maintains his quiet participation in the Holy Grail War until its final iteration in ten years.
  • 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 Walther WA2000 sniper rifle (with night scope and heat vision sensors), and his Mystic Code the Thompson Contender, loaded with his custom Origin Bullets. The anime also shows other weapons in a couple of lock-and-load montages.
  • Guns Akimbo: Kiritsugu dual-wields his Contender and Calico. Also Berserker later, with two MP5 submachine guns.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played with. Mages 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.
    • However, 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, and when he isn't, he parries them with his Black Keys.
    • Firearms, just like anything non-spiritual, are completely ineffective against Servants.
  • Guns vs. Swords: Exaggerated and deconstructed during Kirei and Kiritsugu's first and last confrontation: Kirei commences the fight with six of his twenty Black Keys (throwing swords), and Kiritsugu responds with one shot from his Contender, using his Calico as support. By the last bout, Kirei's Black Keys are being thrown at and making contact with Kiritsugu faster than Kiritsugu can reload and fire his Contender, finally subverting the trope.
  • Hand Cannon: Kiritsugu's preferred weapon is a single-shot Thompson Contender handgun, which, even when not accounting for his special Origin Bullets for use against magic targets, is chambered in .30-06 Springfield, a full-sized rifle round.
  • Hermetic Magic: The Servant summoning process is an elaborate ritual involving the use of detailed sigils, magic incantations, and various magical reagents. As it turns out, the Holy Grail War itself is one giant ritual whose true purpose is to recreate the miracle known as the Third Magic in disguise.
  • High-Altitude Battle: The absolutely glorious battle between Gilgamesh and Berserker during the battle with Caster is this.
  • Historical Gender Flip: King Arthur, a young woman. Explained in Fate/stay night: when she was a young woman, Arturia Pendragon was able to pull Caliburn out of the rock according to the legend, and in her subsequent coronation, she was crowned king instead of queen because Caliburn's (and later Excalibur's) magic made everyone see her as The King, a spell that did not disappear until the moment she was claimed by the Grail as a Heroic Spirit.
  • Homoerotic Subtext:
    • Urobuchi compares Gilgamesh's desire to seduce Kotomine into giving into his more evil desires to that of The Vamp. The anime chose to represent this desire of his by portraying his metaphorical seduction of Kotomine using imagery that was a tad more literal.
    • Kotomine's obsession with Kiritsugu is rich with Foe Romance Subtext, to the point that Urobuchi himself argued that Kiritsugu would play the Uke to Kotomine's Seme.
    • Caster is canonically bi, and stated to be attracted to tomboyish women and beautiful boys, of which Ryunosuke is one himself. Takeuchi stated that he thinks the two of them should get married.
    • Waver and Rider, enough that TYPE-MOON themselves made a parody called Sensha Otoko where the two are a (Het) couple, as well as a 4koma about them having sex. It's mentioned early on that Waver's initial reaction to Rider was a near-Jizzed in My Pants moment, and in general he behaves like a Wet Blanket Wife towards Rider. It's much more overt in the anime, where he's shown blushing at Rider, and is shown waking up in the morning in Episode 13 in a manner akin to Their First Time, all of which have been humorously acknowledged by the animators who describe the two as a boyfriend/girlfriend duo.
  • 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.
  • Immortality Immorality: Kiritsugu's dad can make plants immortal! Just think of the possibilities if the same potion worked on humans! Side effects may include vampirism.
  • 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, one of whose abilities is to transform whatever he picks up into a Noble Phantasm, be it the discarded Noble Phantasms of other Servants, or pieces of a sliced-apart telephone pole. At one point, he even uses an F-15J from the JASDF investigating a massive fight between the Servants. When the jet crashes, he rips off the entire M61 Vulcan unit and fires from the hip. In mid-air.
  • Info Dump: Occasionally the audience is treated to large chunks of explanation in one sitting so that they'll understand. For example, episode one of the anime is longer to accommodate all the discussion of the rules of magic and of the Holy Grail War.
  • 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.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Saber and Lancer have great respect for each other as fellow knights of chivalry, and part this way at the end of the first round of their duel. Also, Gilgamesh (Archer) and Iskandar (Rider) part this way when Rider dies. Indeed, Gilgamesh's attitude and parting words to Iskandar convey exponentially more respect than he's shown to anyone up to that point.
  • It Was with You All Along: Parodied with Ryuunosuke's death, when he realizes that blood and guts were inside him all along.
  • 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.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: In the light novel, this is apparently nearly Waver's reaction to summoning Rider:
    The moment he saw the silhouette of the big frame slowly rising from the summoning circle, behind the white smoke, Waver was so exalted he almost came in his pants.
  • 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. Kirei, Zouken and Gilgamesh are all straightforward examples.
  • Kill Them All: Averted with Kirei, Gilgamesh, Waver, and practically all other characters who had major roles in FSN.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
  • Laser Hallway:
    • 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.
  • 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, since 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.
  • Lost in Translation: The way Gilgamesh addressed Rider in their last confrontation was a heartwarming moment that doubled as a Pet the Dog moment... for Japanese audiences, at least.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Caster summons Eldritch Abominations, 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. The Servants, being mystical beings of enormous power themselves, are able to injure and slay the creatures he summons.
  • Male Gaze: During the Einzbern Consultation Room, Irisviel adjusts her kimono in such a way as to titillate male viewers.
  • Mana: Often referred to as Prana, a mystical energy used to perform magic. 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.
  • 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.
  • Maximum HP Reduction: Lancer's Gáe Buidhe places a curse on whomever it wounds, making a Wound That Will Not Heal. When asked to define this in gaming terms, Word of God said that its effect would be basically this trope (which can be seen with his Gáe Buidhe special in Fate/unlimited codes). Also, Kiritsugu Emiya was cursed by the contents of the Holy Grail, which was the ultimate cause of his demise, as it drained his life force slowly but steadily.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Sola-ui ought to be magically powerful enough to resist Lancer's Love Spot, but she falls in love with him all the same. Whether she failed to resist the Love Spot's power, did resist it but fell in love with Lancer legitimately, or some blend of the two is never explained.
  • Meaningful Name: Alimango Island. If you know the meaning of Alimango (Crab), then you're either someone who's fluent in 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 Mage 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. In particular, the line "My cup overflows" in the psalm is supposed to refer to an abundance of blessings, but the camera focuses on a cup that's overflowing with curses.
  • More Than Mind Control: Waver hypnotizes the Mackenzies into thinking he's their grandson. Later, Glen mentions that he knows Waver isn't related to them, but he's a nice young man and they enjoy his company.
  • Neutral in Name Only: The Holy Church is supposed to be a neutral referee of the Holy Grail War. In Zero, Kotomine Kirei, who is the son of the current church overseer and a member of the Church, is a Master in the war. While that in itself falls under a loophole (the Grail chooses the Masters), his father assigns him to secretly assist Tohsaka Tokiomi, another master. That is DEFINITELY against the rules.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In the finale, Kiritsugu barely fails to kill Kirei, who outlives him to eventually to become the nemesis of Kiritsugu'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 Downer Ending 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.
  • 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.
  • No Historical Figures 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.
  • Off-Model: Many shots in episode 11 of the anime, due in large part to most of the budget going into animating Ionioi Hetairoi.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You:
    • Claimed by Lancer as he saves Saber from Caster's monsters.
    • Gilgamesh stating that he will be the one to defeat Rider during the Banquet of Kings. He makes good on his word.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Kiritsugu's past, featuring Dead Apostles, who come off more as mindless, slow-moving zombies than anything else.
  • Parental Abandonment: Tokiomi towards Sakura and Kiritsugu and Irisviel towards Ilya.
  • Pass the Popcorn: A fairly low-key example. During a dramatic scene where Kariya goes insane and nearly kills Aoi, Gilgamesh and Kotomine are enjoying the scene from a distance while drinking wine.
  • Place of Power: Ley lines intersect in Fuyuki, making it possible to hold the Heaven's Feel ritual here.
  • Playing the Heart Strings: Dream of Eternity, which in the Drama CD plays as Alexander dies.
  • 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. When she finally sees how he operates, she is enraged and disgusted by his callous pragmatism.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Tokiomi seems to be under the impression that Zouken was a distinguished and upstanding mage, and was happy to turn Sakura over to him to save her from the cruelty of Mage society. Kariya knows Zouken is a literal monster whose depravity knows no bounds, but due to his mental instability and grudge fails to tell Tokiomi what Zouken is doing to Sakura during their confrontation. As such, Tokiomi dismisses Kariya as nothing more than a raving madman and a pathetic excuse for a mage, blames him for anything bad that might happen to Sakura, and tries to kill him. It doesn't help that Tokiomi also says that he's fine with the possibility of Rin and Sakura fighting each other in the next Grail War.
  • Power Born of Madness: Berserker Servants get the Mad Enhancement skill, which increases their power at the cost of their reasoning. The Black Knight is notable for retaining his ability to fight skillfully despite its effects. Caster also has a Mental Pollution skill, where his madness prevents others from mentally influencing him but this never really comes into play.
  • Power Glows: In particular, Excalibur being charged (the sword converts Mana into light).
  • Power Levels: As with Fate/stay night, character sheets of Servants quantify and list their abilities and tools.
  • Pre-Order Bonus: In-universe example. Rider's T-shirt is a pre-order bonus for a video game.
  • Prequel: Fate/Zero is set ten years before Fate/stay night, and tells the story of what took place in the Fourth Grail War.
  • Press X to Die: In Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, Masters have Command Seals (3 per contract) that force their Servants to do exactly what the Masters say, even if the only possible outcome of said action is losing the Holy Grail War. Kayneth forces his Servant Lancer to commit suicide, as part of the deal to let him walk away unmolestednote  from the war after he's crippled. Later, Kiritsugu forces Saber to destroy the Holy Grail itself, although in that case he had to use two Command Seals since said Servant's Magic Resistance and willpower was high enough to resist the first one.
  • Product Placement: Played for Laughs in the Einzbern Consultation Room OVAs. Taiga's questions about the Servants at one point basically sum up to "Buy the novels to learn more, in stores now!"
  • 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 with thermal and night-vision scopes; none of the characters mention how these guns were smuggled into Japan, of all places.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Despite all the tragedy that the fourth Holy Grail War brought, Kiritsugu was able to save and pass down his ideals to Shirou, with whom Saber will have a chance to reconcile her ideals and accept her past mistakes in Fate/stay night.
  • Rays from Heaven: They fall on a mourning Saber in her standby pocket dimension (a hill in a battlefield, completely covered in corpses) as Shirou declares his intent to fulfill Kiritsugu's dream of becoming a hero and Saber declares her determination to acquire the Holy Grail, symbolizing hope for her/their success in the next Grail War.
  • Read the Fine Print: The geis Kiritsugu drew up in exchange for Kayneth killing his own Servant prohibits him from ever killing/harming or acting with intent to kill/harm Kayneth or Sola-Ui. However, his assistant Maiya can still kill them in his stead.
  • "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.
    • 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 chasing Rider, who is on a flying lightning chariot. They smash heavy items at each other with swords. Really.
  • Rule of Drama: In the Fate/stay night anime adaptations, Gilgamesh simply pulls Ea out of a random portal in the Gate of Babylon. In the anime of Fate/Zero, where he's engaging in an epic battle at the time, he opens a portal to retrieve the key to undo the elaborate lock Ea is under.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • The crashing of Oceanus' waves was the beating of Rider's own heart. One may take this as a metaphor that one should spend one's life doing what one loves, or that the journey is its own reward.
    • Wine is used to symbolize desire. Gilgamesh mentions Tokiomi has more than Kirei but Kirei's wines that he never drinks are of higher quality, symbolizing how Tokiomi has more he enjoys (his family, magecraft, his friendship with Father Risei) but Kirei has deeper desires (Evil Feels Good) and doesn't partake of them.
  • Saved by Canon: Human characters who show up in Fate/stay night — Kirei and the child characters — are sure to survive this one. Played with in Archer and Saber, who are major characters in that one, too — but they're Servants, not humans, so what happens to them in this war is still up in the air.
  • Save the World: This is Kiritsugu's wish, and aptly so. He takes practical measures to win the Grail War so that he might request that it be done, but, once he wins, the Grail explains that a wish is not a command, as Kiritsugu must use a method he knows will grant what he desires. Once it suggests they use Kiritsugu's methodology in life to realize his dream, Kiritsugu rejects the Grail.
  • Scenery Porn: In the anime, no expense was too high, best described by one reviewer 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. Take a look
  • Screaming Warrior:
    • Rider's battle yodel when charging his chariot over something. Which, surprisingly, is an actual Ancient Greek warcry.
    • 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.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Waver and Rider are the series' primary source of comic relief and lighthearted moments in the first half, and their Character Focus is heavily reduced as the plot gets darker.
  • 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.
    • He shoots his own father after finding out his immortality research turns people into Dead Apostles.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Kiritsugu takes El-Melloi's fiancée 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.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • In the anime's first ending, the Servants are depicted in scenes that are based on actual paintings or sculptures of their historical counterparts. This overlaps with Spoiler Opening for Berserker, since he's the only one whose identity isn't revealed right away.
    • Many details of the Servants' legends had to have required substantial research, Artistic License notwithstanding.
  • Sinister Geometry: The summoning of Ea, Archer's ultimate weapon.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Heavily cynical. A considerable amount of plot demonstrates idealistic characters having their principles challenged or even shattered.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Starlit Faith", from the Return to Zero soundtrack album, reads and sounds like a rock ballad about finding one's way to one's loved one. One could be forgiven for hearing this and not guessing that the setting of the soundtrack is extremely dark.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: See Adaptation Expansion.
  • Spirited Competitor: Saber and Lancer's duel is shaded with this.
  • Spoiler Opening:
    • The anime's second opening shows the Grail corruption leaking from Irisviel's orifices and later implies that she will die.
    • The first ending makes Berserker's identity fairly obvious after his first appearance shows he knows Arturia.
  • Squishy Wizard: Subverted in the Nasuverse in general; mages 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 mages undergo.
    • However, it applies to Waver for the standard reason that he's too busy studying to get any exercise, or at least so he says. He's almost just as weak magically as he is physically, though, which is why he studies like a madman all the time, but he can't use his magical abilities to compensate for being weak, because he basically doesn't have those either!
  • Summoning Ritual: The method by which each Servant is brought into the world.
  • 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.
  • Super Reflexes:
    • Kiritsugu has a spell called "Innate Time Control" that he uses to control the flow of time within his own body.
    • Kirei dodges bullets.
  • Surprisingly Good English: Or German, in this case.
    • Besides "Starlit Faith" above, the Return to Zero album also contains "Beginning Oath".
    • Kiritsugu's dossiers on the other Masters are shown in the anime to be in clear English.
    • Not to mention Kirei's prayer in the last episode, which, while a little stilted, is perfectly clear English, and in Jouji Nakata's voice, downright creepy.
    • Zigzagged. The voice actor seems to know enough pronunciation to approximate proper German (making it a huge improvement over Rin or Archer), but the grammar is still gibberish.
    • Natalia's fax messages are in passable German. Show Hayami also gets to recite a spell in German.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Berserker hijacks a fighter jet mid-flight using his Noble Phantasm then starts performing intense maneuvers during his dogfight with Archer. While the superhuman Servants are tough enough to ignore the immense g-force experienced, the poor human sap in the fighter jet doesn't have the same luxury and instantly dies once Berserker starts pushing the plane beyond normal human operating limits.
  • Tears of Blood: Lancer begins to cry these 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 anime scene, Gilgamesh prefers to simply teleport several times to dramatically appropriate areas of the room instead of walking around.
  • There Can Be Only One: In a Holy Grail War, the last Servant standing wins.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Rider avoids switching to his intangible spirit form as much as possible, so in the novel specifically it's spelled out that he and Waver have to share the bed (until Rider meets the Mackenzies, who provide a futon). Waver realizes Rider must be getting into trouble when he wakes up with no one snoring in his ear.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works:
    • 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.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Caster's Noble Phantasm, Prelati's Spellbook. Not only is its cover made of human skin, it's actually alive and Caster merely "commands" it. It summons Lovecraftian tentacle monsters.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Local muggles get killed due to their own lack of caution around obviously supernatural phenomena:
    • If a giant, sentient ball of mercury appears out of nowhere, you probably shouldn't shove your hand into it like one cleanup worker near the aftermath of Kayneth and Kiritsugu's battle did.
    • Is that a gargantuan, tentacled monster in the river? Maybe I can get a better look if I fly closer to it!
  • Tragedy: The story is a tragedy which ends up destroying the lives of everyone involved save for Waver Velvet. The opening line warns that Kiritsugu will end up in despair and that his fatal flaw is his belief in an ideal; what follows is build up to the final catharsis when he destroys the Grail and sees the consequences of his actions.
  • Translation with an Agenda: In a Drama CD, Team Rider meets Taiga. Since she doesn't speak English and Waver doesn't speak Japanese, but Servants can speak any language necessary, Iskandar translates between them... but since he becomes a Shipper on Deck for them, he makes it sound like Waver is flirting with her, which Waver only realizes when she starts flirting back.
  • 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.
  • War Is Hell: The focus of Kiritsugu's lamenting monologue in the third novel. He also disparages heroes, their actions, and their legends, which cause people to glorify war.
  • Weapon of Choice: Servants are armed with Noble Phantasms, the weapons or abilities that helped make them famous in life. Also, mages 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 Happened to the Mouse?: The anime is unclear about what happened to the unlucky pilot of the fighter jet that Berserker hijacked. The light novels explicitly state that he was killed by the extreme g-force created by Berserker's piloting.
  • 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.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Two episodes of season 2 are dedicated to Kiritsugu's backstory.
  • 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 vinted 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.
  • Wizarding School: Waver Velvet is studying magecraft at the Clock Tower at the start of the story.
  • The Worf Effect: Discussed by one of the fighter pilots sent against Caster's Eldritch Abomination.
    Pilot: If this were a monster movie, we'd be the first to go. You know, the ones who make the bad guy look tough.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • How most Servants see each other, especially once learning their respective heroic identities.
    • Gilgamesh in particular feels this way towards Rider, even awarding him with feelings of geniune admiration (in the light novel, at least) upon his death. Worth mentioning since this being Gilgamesh, who thinks of even the other heroic spirits as little more that mongrels, it is the most respect he has been shown to feel and possibly ever felt towards anyone not called Enkidu.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • 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 (in theory) until then. Cue nearly everyone doing an Enemy Mine to take these two down. Really, REALLY helped by Caster's true identity.
    • What Zouken does to five-year-old Sakura is beyond contempt.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Lancer's Gae Buidhe inflicts a curse on wounds so they won't heal, which is described 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: Poor, poor Sakura. Kariya rushes to save her from being made into the Matou heir, but finds out the process has already started.
    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.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Or rather, a Vampire Apocalypse happened on Kiritsugu's island home in his backstory.

"Being a hero is a limited-time thing. When you grow up, it becomes harder to call yourself one. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize that"


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Fate Zero


Giles De Rais/Caster

During his introduction, Giles De Rais, the Caster seems to be a creepy but kind man, freeing a scared child that his master Ryunosuke Uryuu had sacrificed to him. Just when the boy's about to go free however, Caster reveals his real side, as the boy is ripped to pieces by one of his monsters, as a cruel Hope Spot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / BaitAndSwitchCharacterIntro

Media sources: