"I've shown you mine, so the least you can do is show me yours" and "I am the bone of my sword."
Saber once tells Shirou "you've entered me so many times"... referring, of course, to the fact that he's entered her memories. It doesn't help that at this point in the story, they've already had sex, as well.
Another good one from Saber, to Shirou: "You were my sheath." She's discussing the fact that he's a vessel for Excalibur's sheath Avalon, buuuuut...
Lancer's long, veiny, red and piercing Gae Bolg... or, if you prefer, his "Gay Bulge".
Alternative Character Interpretation: Archer's last act in Heaven's Feel: did he simply give his arm to Shirou in order to give Shirou a fighting chance against the Shadow, being completely unaware of how the arm would slowly kill him, or could he have been aware of what fusing his arm to Shirou would do to him, and thus believed that Shirou killing himself by overusing Archer's Projection could technically count as Archer "killing" Shirou?
Anti-Climax Boss: Caster in Fate; Rider in Unlimited Blade Works; Rider's first fight, both of Caster's fights, Sasaki Kojirou, AKA Fake Assassin, normal Berserker and Gilgamesh in Heaven's Feel.
Ass Pull: At the end of Unlimited Blade Works, Archer still being alive, surviving a prolonged period despite his already low mana and being impaled by several of Gilgamesh's Noble Phantasms.
Author's Saving Throw: While probably not its primary purpose, the Last Episode removes any horrifying implications that Shirou becomes Archer after the Fate route. Adding to that, it was specifically made because Takeuchi begged Nasu to not let Saber have a Bittersweet Ending.
Awesome Ego: Gilgamesh. It's the primary reason he is so popular.
Badass Decay: Retroactively, Fate/Zero makes it clear that this has happened when comparing the two Grail Wars shown. note Especially in the anime, where Sakura is not an active participant or even a master at all. The Fourth Grail War was a battle between highly skilled mages who carefully planned, prepared, and summoned specific Servants for the War. The Fifth had three masters who didn't know about the Holy Grail prior to being made masters,note Shirou, Souchirou and Shinji two masters who were killed almost immediately after it began, note Lancer and Caster's masters and a Servant who became a master herself and summoned her own, flawed, Servant note Caster . Of the two masters who knew what they were doing, Ilya kept Berserker weaker than he could be out of childish petulance and Rin summoned a Servant at random, botching the summoning somewhat. This is excused by the gap between wars being only ten years, when traditionally it is sixty, meaning preparations were a bit rushed.
The DEEN anime was initially widely praised back in 2006, especially for the fluid animation techniques shown at the time. After 2011, a good portion of the fanbase, especially those introduced to the Fate franchise through ufotable's adaptation of the Fate/ZeroLight Novel criticized the 2006 anime primarily for its plot (which primarily focused on the "Fate" route, but included elements of "Unlimited Blade Works" and "Heaven's Feel" as well, with a questionable degree of success) and its frequent Off-Model moments (especially when ufotable's animation completely blew DEEN's out of the water in comparison) ultimately leading to them viewing it as Deader Than DiscoFanon Discontinuity. However, it still has its fans and defenders (including a few that got into the franchise through it), who point out DEEN's version is the only one that assumes you have no knowledge of the visual novel and works from there (while Fate/Zero is an adaptation of a prequel that assumes the reader already knows the twists of Fate/stay night and spoils elements from the original game at well, and ufotable's "Unlimited Blade Works" and "Heaven's Feel" assume you already watched said prequel). Those who try to take a middle ground admit that while the 2006 anime may not have aged well compared to the newer animes, it was still decent for its time and not a bad place to start enjoying the Fate series even now. Plus, no one on any side can argue with its Awesome Music.
Heaven's Feel, with its focus on Sakura, also gets this. The route is either the best of the three by far and a literary masterpiece that beautifully tackles complex themes, or a shallow love story that relies far too much on "suffering equals depth" to work effectively.
That Archer is from the unproduced Illya route, due to his fondness for Illya. Word of God is that Archer is from the Fate/Saber route, but couldn't save Saber's heart and that Illya's death after the route added to his misery.
Likewise, another popular misconception is that Archer is from one of the game's routes/endings, but Word of God states that this is false.
Complete Monster: Zouken Matou, head of the Matou mage family, is an ancient, revolting man who has long since forgotten everything save his pursuit of the Holy Grail and the power it can bestow upon him. Remaining alive by killing and stealing the bodies of his descendants, Zouken later adopted the young girl Sakura from the Tohsaka family, before using her as a host for magic worms, having them violate Sakura for over a decade. Zouken manipulates his wayward descendant Kariya into fighting the Grail War for him, fully intending on using Kariya as a sacrificial lamb, infesting him with the worms to shorten his life. After Sakura's power became too dangerous to control, Zouken had her adoptive brother Shinji rape her regularly to keep it under control. In the "Heaven's Feel" route, Zouken, as the Big Bad, engineers a great amount of death and catastrophe, provoking Sakura into unlocking her hidden dark side, intending to seize her body as well and finally claim the Grail at long last.
Cry for the Devil: Kotomine in Heaven's Feel. While the route gives the audience an idea of just how depraved he is, getting a look his backstory shows that despite it he's an equally miserable person who has suffered throughout his entire life.
Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: A criticism of Heaven's Feel. Between Sakura's exceedingly tragic life, Saber being corrupted into a villain, Shirou's magic in this route frying his brain, and the anticlimactic deaths of many characters beloved in the other routes early on, it becomes difficult to keep caring about what happens to the cast.
The Saber/Shirou fans are really, really threatened by Sakura's presence. Is it any wonder that several of them double as Sakura bashers?
This actually cuts both ways, with Sakura fans usually demanding Saber's removal from the equation. This has its roots in two things. Firstly, Sakura and Saber are both characters that Shirou feels he needs to "save" in their respective routes, and their circumstances mean it's difficult to do both. Secondly, in the canon routes, Saber gets turned evil and mercy killed by Shirou in HF due to the Shadow (which comes from Sakura, by the way) while Sakura is promptly forgotten about in Fate.
Rin doesn't have this problem with Saber fans thanks to UBW having the only actually listed Good End in the game and her character being rather... open to these kinds of things. Sakura fans... are a different story.
Gilgamesh falls into this, even with his more overtly villainous characterization. Fans enjoy his gloriously hammy and arrogant personality, and how he will mercilessly curbstomp Shirou, to the point they get pissed when Shirou wins. It helps that Gilgamesh's most repulsive characteristics are limited to the Fate route- where Saber is the central girl- and Shirou gets the most flak for being a Vanilla Protagonist. In UBW, Gilgamesh's Villainous Crush on Saber is absent, leaving him focused entirely on ruling over a new world, making him into a more straightforward and enjoyable villain.
Because Gilgamesh's villainy tends to revolve around his Villainous Crush on Saber, it should be elaborated upon considering how many fans still like him anyway. Gilgamesh undeniably makes no qualms about wanting to outright rape Saber, but because he makes no actual moves to do so, it is easy to forget about or ignore his threats, unlike Shinji who actually attempts to rape a captive Rin onscreen and actually does rape Sakura in disturbing detail, making the action impossible to ignore. Or the dozens of other attempted and actual sexual assaults by Medusa, Medea, Ilya, Dark Sakura, and Zouken on other characters including Shirou, Rin, and Saber (making her and Shirou potentially the victims of more than one potential assaulter). It is worth pointing out that in both the original myth and the game, Enkidu originally fought Gilgamesh due to him invoking Droit de seigneur, or the lord's right to a bride's virginity, where the consent of the woman didn't matter, and Values Dissonance can't be invoked with this because even in the original myth people thought he was going too far. That being said, Gilgamesh was also a good if flawed king and the point of the epic is for Gilgamesh to learn hubris and to accept that there are some things out of even his reach; ending the tale as a hero worthy of the title. Fate's Gilgamesh has done things far more vile than many other Heroic Spirits but the lack of screentime makes it harder to hold it against him than it is against the other villains who attempt to and/or actually succeed in sexually assaulting their targets.
Kotomine can also fall into this, as he is actually one of the most popular characters in the franchise and has an incredible amount of depth to him due to a very believable backstory while still being vague enough to spark discussion about his character. Is he a Tragic Villain or a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds?
Lancer, who really gets The Worf Effect very hard in the series, but his wit, amiable and likable personality, and interest in fighting compared to the more goal oriented and ambitious Servants made him easily one of the most popular Servants. His glorious send off in Unlimited Blade Works with killing Kotomine after the latter ordered him to commit suicide is very satisfying as well.
Rider and not just for her sheer Miss Fanservice traits, but also her tragic past (being a unique, non-evil take on the Greek monster Medusa without using literal snake hairs), her moments of awesome in HF, all while being compelling (which many cannot say about her true master, Sakura). Not bad, when she spent the two first, more popular routes as 'first casualty' fodder all the time.
Fake Assassin AKA Sasaki Kojirou is fairly popular due to being a quite likeable nobleWorthy Opponent towards Saber, his distaste and snarking at the less popular Caster, and his Warrior Poet nature.
Gilgamesh. There's a reason he's the most popular villain.
While Sakura is easily the least popular of the game's heroines her Super-Powered Evil Side surprisingly managed to be this and got a much better reception.
Fandom Rivalry: The fandom of Fate and its many sequels/spin-offs holds quite a rivalry with the fans of the Shinza Bansho Series, especially Dies Irae, both in terms of their similarities as well as their differences.
Fanfic Fuel: The general premise, that superpowered historical/legendary figures are summoned to fight in a battle royale, has led to large amounts of original character servants in fanfics.
Because Archer's Dark and Troubled Past is only told in broad details rather than real specifics, plenty of fanfic writers like to write about what really happened in his life. In particular, because Nasu says that Archer can come from any potential timeline (even one of the three in-game ones), as well as the fact that Archer has a damaged memory (so he can't remember any specific details or characters he encountered in his timeline), Archer's practically a fanfic goldmine.
The Second True Magic that is discussed in Heaven's Feel is the perfect device to justify nearly any crossover you can think of. This is helped by the fact that in the True Ending to the route, Rin becomes an apprentice to Zelretch, the mage who mastered said magic.
On a lesser note, the fact that Shirou's parents are completely unknown opens ample room for speculation, as well as a crossover motivator should Shirou's biological family be somehow found.
Many fans prefer pairing Rin with Archer than Shirou, especially it makes for good Ship Mates with fans of Shirou and either of the other two heroines. Ironically Archer actually is Shirou from the future.
More fans like to pair Sakura with Rider than with Shirou.
Shirou/Rider is reasonably popular for a non-canon paring - they like each other, fans like her, and she's the only Servant who survives the story in a True Ending. All the necessary pieces are in place, and while the story doesn't go there outside a bit of Ship Tease, the fans are happy to go the rest of the way. Additionally, the fandisc sequel would later reveal that Rider actually does have a thing for Shirou, but tries to suppress it as not to upset Sakura, who gets somewhat jealous seeing the two together.
Fanon: While we've had no official art to confirm this, there are mountains of fan art depicting Shirou after the events of the grail war wearing a Palette Swapped version of Archer's armor.
For a while Shirou got hit with being very dense/stupid, due to doujins playing up his naivete in the Fate route to absurd levels and the original anime going with the Fate route (mainly an info dump) one, hiding the fact he's really neither.
Due to a misunderstanding on how magecraft and Shirou's projection work, virtually any crossover with another magically-inclined series in which he travels to their universe will give Shirou a massive power boost.
Shirou's cooking is considered delicious in-universe and it's lovingly described to Food Porn levels. All of his friends and family get extremely excited when he's cooking and even Servants commend him for how tasty it is. But at the same time, Rin and Sakura are on par with him and he's actually worried that Sakura will surpass him at one point. Fanon tends to elevate him to a Supreme Chef who cooks Impossibly Delicious Food that is downright divine in its taste and presentation.
The "I am the bone of my sword" invocation/chant for the Unlimited Blade Worksreality marble isn't given much weight or attention, and only seems to be there for the Rule of Cool. Until the Heaven's Feel route, that is, where its meaning becomes painfully clear after Shirou uses Archer's arm for projection, catapulting him past his limits and resulting in an eventual rebound that reforges his body into thousands of swords, killing him from the inside out."I am the bone of my sword" indeed. At one point in Unlimited Blade Works, Archer tells Shirou and Saber that he lost his arm the first time he used a projection, which seems to be a lie as Shirou is able to perform projection and still manages to keep both arms throughout both Fate and UBW. But then in Heaven's Feel, Shirou has one of his arms blown off. Archer voluntarily has one of his arms grafted to Shirou, and "losing his arm" at this point enables Shirou to perform Projection for the first time not long after.
Also, Sakura's jealousy. Cute? A funny little argument with Rider about Shirou finding her attractive? Not so much after killing Shinji, going berserk and hitting you with the worst bad ends of the game plus her Villainous Breakdown against Tohsaka at the end, where it's also revealed that no, Sakura did not pick up the little cues that Tohsaka really did care about her all along.
Remember the humorous scenes you can get if you nag Saber for "a super move that can defeat a Servant" during training? In one ending of Heaven's Feel, Shirou actually wins against Saber Alter... by using Archer's super move with Kanshou and Bakuya against her. Though maybe it's just Hilarious in Hindsight, since that ending is actually really, really awesome.
Growing the Beard: While the Fate route is still well-liked and regarded, the Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel routes are considered much deeper, more complex themes and storylines.
Good Bad Translation: One overly-literal fansub had Shirou saying "People die if they are killed" with an ultra-serious look on his face.note basically a slightly idiomatic phrase equivalent to the English "normally you only have one life to live." A screenshot of this sub is now a meme when talking about bad translations and/or Engrish, even though it makes sense in context.
Gilgamesh's Entitled to Have You attitude concerning Saber is already creepy enough on its own, but then Fate/Zero elaborates on it even further. Gilgamesh finds the look of despair on Saber's face to remind him of his servant girls.
A throwaway line in Heaven's Feel notes that a gravely wounded Rin is being kept alive by her Magic Crest, which will not let her die if it can help it. This gains sinister undertones near the ending of Fate/Grand Order, which reveals that the Big Bad induced an anti-suicide compulsion within Magic Crests, so that the seventy-two Demon Pillars within them can survive for three thousand years and take over their host magi when the time is right.
Shirou is a somewhat dim man with red hair who is obsessed with swords. Sound familiar?
In the Fate route, Rin half-jokingly speculates that Archer must have been a skirt chaser back when he was alive. Then comes UBW and we discover who he is. Suffice to say, he didn't chase skirts as much as he was chased by skirts.
Rin mentions in the prologue that there is no way there can be any other masters than her in her school. As it turns out, no less than four other masters from the war were either students or teachers at the school.
This◊ is the depiction of Merlin from a Doujin Visual Novel from 2013. Skip forward a few years and this◊ is Merlin's official design, revealed in March of 2015.
The whole mispronunciation of Lancer's Gae Bolg as "Gay Bulge" and Archer's Rho Aias as "Raw Ass" becomes this when you realize that in his legend, Cu Chulainn defeated Ferdiad by an Ass Shove with the Gae Bolg.
Illya lacking her own route, which the authors intended to put in the visual novel but did not have enough time, had been the franchise' in-joke for years. Fast forward to 2011, she got a whole show for herself.
This incarnation of Lancer is best rememberedfor dying in every route (and Carnival Phantasm for that matter, to the point where his master takes Grail-kun's advice and chooses to kill Lancer himself and forge a contract with another servant because Lancer kept dying on him). His Fate/Grand Order version, on the other hand, if played correctly, is almost unkillable, and people have been able to defeat the final boss of the game's first arc using him on his own.
The story combines mythologies where you can have King Arthur (Saber), Cu Chulainn (Lancer), Medusa (Rider), Heracles/Hercules (Berserker) fight against each other... And in 2019, they can do it again, maybe as a team, in Smite.
Part of the official English lyrics to "This Illusion" is translated as "The destiny is the name of the game [that] fate is playing."
Rin is confirmed to be bisexual in the Fate route when she has sex with Saber, and realizes that she swings both ways. Even without that moment she has a number of Stupid Sexy Flanders moments with Saber, and one in the Good End of Heaven's Feel with Rider where Rin's narration comments on and on about how attractive Rider is.
It Was His Sled: Saber is King Arthur, Archer is Shirou Emiya from an alternate future, pretty much the identities of all of the servants honestly. And, thanks to the extreme popularity of the Fate/Zero anime, what was once one of the most major plot twists of Heaven's Feel(namely, that Sakura and Rin are sisters) is known by almost everyone in the fandom now.
Saber, who gets paired with pretty much everyone, male and female alike.
Gilgamesh, due to the Foe Yay he has with a large amount of the cast. Helps that he's canonically pansexual.
Shirou. It's a given with the female character due to the series' Harem Genre elements, but he's also frequently shipped with Archer, Lancer, Gilgamesh, Kotomine, and occasionally Issei. He's also shipped with swords.
While not as much as the above characters, Rin herself gets to be shipped with a lot of characters. Besides Shirou, there's also Archer, Lancer, Gilgamesh, Saber, Luvia, and even Issei.
In Fate/Zero, Kirei Kotomine finally embraces the evil within himself after a lifetime of struggle with his condition of only finding joy in evil but having enough of a conscience to know right from wrong, betraying and murdering his master Tokiomi Tohsaka. Manipulating the church and other sorcerers for years after while keeping the Servant Gilgamesh intact. Kirei proceeds to manipulate the Fifth Grail War, playing everyone to assist him getting the Grail in each route. Kirei intends to summon Angra Mainyu, the being behind the Grail itself to ask it about the purpose of his existence, even if it destroys him or the world. Kirei manipulates everyone with an unmistakable sense of charm, frequently showing himself as the most compelling villain of the Fate franchise.
Archer, the resident Wild Card, is Shirou Emiya from an alternate timeline disillusioned from his dreams to be a "hero of justice." Summoned in the Fifth Holy Grail War, Archer seeks to escape his fate by murdering Shirou. No one able to get a true read on him, Archer is regarded as one of the best tacticians in the Holy Grail War. Often winning with his well-planned strategies that he often doesn't share with his Master Rin beforehand, Archer weaves out of the Master-Servant pact by pretending to ally with Caster and her Master. Once they are dispatched both directly and indirectly, Archer moves forward with his gambit but cannot go through with after seeing Shirou's own conviction in the face of reality. He dies content that Rin with set Shirou on a path he won't regret.
Caster, True Name Medea, is a devious mage from the Age of Gods who seeks out the Holy Grail to preserve her short time with her Master and lover by any means necessary. Her first attempt at stealing Shirou's Command Speals in his sleep is only thwarted by the untimely appearance of Archer, but she later uses Taiga Fujimaru as leverage for Shirou to finally bequeath Saber to Caster note In the Fate route, the hostage is instead Sakura Matou; although a failed attempt . Taking every opportunity to tip the odds in her favor, Caster plays with the rules of the Grail War, such as summoning a fake Servant in Sasaki Kojiro, to meet her own ends. At one point commanding three Servants with Ryudo Temple as her base, Caster attacks the church and seemingly kills Kirei Kotomine, taking over the church and using it as a stronghold. Despite plunging the Unlimited Blade Works route to its Darkest Hour, her final act is to express her love for Kuzaki, reminding everyone of Caster's complicated, duplicitous nature.
UNLIMITED BUDGET WORKS!note At the time of its airing, ufotable's adaptation of UBW had some of the best animation ever seen in a television broadcast anime.
Dr. Gil's Miraculous Heart Surgery Explanation Played in reverse, the Unlimited Blade Works scene where Gilgamesh kills Ilya turns into Gil ramming a heart into her chest, healing her wounds with a friendly smile, and then moonwalking away and dissolving into golden glitter.
Rin's harem ending Explanation The Unlimited Blade Works route's Good Ending has Saber sticking around the modern era with Shirou and Rin unlike the True Ending where she leaves. Considering Rin's implied attraction towards Saber and her being known as the one wearing the pants in her and Shirou's relationship, fans have argued that UBW's Good Ending isn't Shirou's harem ending, but Rin's.
Mis-blamed: As noted in the Complete Materials, Nasu didn't actually write the infamously bad sex scenes in this or any other Type-Moon game. Hasn't stopped 'Nasu can't write sex' from approaching Memetic Mutation levels - that may, admittedly, be true, but we can't say for sure without any evidence.
Moe: Sakura and Ilya stand out as the most notable cases, although Saber and Rin have their moments.
More Popular Spinoff: Hoo boy. This is true in the wider sense of the Nasuverse, and it's made real old-school Type-Moon fans sore for ages. F/SN was just meant to be an interesting one-off that expanded on the idea of magic in Nasu's fictional universe as well as elaborate on the idea of the Counter Force and whatnot before TM moved on to Tsukihime 2 or other projects. However, the reaction to the VN, its adaptations, and then its spinoffs were always so consistently positive and led to newer fans asking for more material that F/SN and the series it spawned ended up becoming the primary focus of the Nasuverse. This makes a lot of very old school, doujin-era fans pretty annoyed, since it means Tsukihime got pushed to the wayside very early, and it means other elements of the Nasuverse tend to get overshadowed by the relentless success of Fate.
Shinjistarts out as a Jerkass, but crosses the line in every route. In Fate it's trying to kill off the entire school to power up his Servant; his laughing in Unlimited Blade Worksas Gilgamesh rips Ilya's heart out is cruel, but with his Attempted Rape on Tohsaka he crosses the line. And then we find out in Heaven's Feel that he's raped his sister many, many times before the story begins.
Zouken who has a massive head start on everyone else in this area as his actions cause Shinji and Sakura's misery among many others. It's quite telling that Kotomine of all people considers him a very nasty piece of work.
Kotomine using the orphans of the Fuyuki City fire as living prana batteries for Gilgamesh, though we only find out about it in the Fate route. And this could have happened to Shirou.
Gilgamesh himself, if his description of what he plans on doing to Saber in the Fate route isn't sickening enough, he crosses it by destroying Ilya's eyes and ripping her heart out without a shred of remorse in Unlimited Blade Works.
The "Geas" Bad End in Heaven's Feel has Rin cross it. In this ending, Shirou swears his absolute obedience to Rin, and she's all too willing to use that against him, subjecting him to a nasty Mind Rape when he tries to go against her decision and save Sakura. The implications this has on Shirou are horrific to say the least, as the ending monologue strongly implies that he ends up losing his sanity.
In Heaven's FeelSakura Matou herself has unknowingly summoned a Shadow that is killing and devouring hundreds of people, and after killing Shinji for trying to rape her, she succumbs to the Shadow's influence and believes that she is beyond saving. However, it's only when Sakura brutally rapes Rin in the "Femme fatale" Bad End, that Shirou (who has sacrificed everything for her) realizes that she's too far gone to be saved. And in Fate/unlimited codes her dark side crosses this by keeping Bazet alive just so she can watch her suffer.
Most Wonderful Sound: Saber unleashing "Excalibur!" and Archer's "Unlimited Blade Works" incantation are always awesome regardless of what medium they're depicted in.
MST3K Mantra: This is essential for any of the hardcore fans who are addicted to the intricacies of canon to enjoy the UBW movie at all. Never mind the complete excising of Shirou and Rin's opposition, for instance, just focus on the epic action scenes.
Two words: Gay Bulge. (From the anime dub pronouncing Gae Bolg in the worst possible way.)
Similarly, Rho Aias, which sounds like "Raw Ass". Then when you have Lancer and Archer fighting each other with their Gay Bulge and Raw Ass, you're bound to get jokes about Ho Yay between them.
The H-scenes for their "Blind Idiot" Translation, assuming that the writing wasn't already terrible. Much of it is Word Salad and has some... interesting descriptions that are short and unsubtle. For example, "The varying movements are like that of an educated prostitute.", "Her anus is defenseless. It looks like a second reproductive organ. Tohsaka's anus.", "The body is shaped like a mollusk.", "Maybe she can't breath through her mouth because it's filled with my penis.", "It's [Shirou's penis] like it's crying.", etc. It's about "I release two years worth of semen into Asuna." levels of terrible.
Not to mention the excuse they give for why Shirou has to have sex with Saber in order to recharger her mana and also why Rider seduces him: because mage semen contains mana.
Similarly, the All There in the Manual explanation for how Mordred was conceived. Because Arturia needed a biological heir (which is obviously not possible in her political marriage with Guinevere), Merlin temporarily gave her a penis. Whatever was supposed to happen next is anyone's guess (why Arturia didn't have conceive one with Guinevere isn't explained), but Morgan conveniently comes around during this time and seduces Arturia. Morgan takes Arturia's sperm and uses it with her ovary to create Mordred.
Right after Shirou tells Kiritsugu that he wants to stay with him instead of going to an orphanage, Kiritsugu tells Shirou immediately afterwards while a bunch of other kids with in the same room are within earshot and have nothing else to do other than watch the two of them talk that he's a mage, which makes you wonder if this caused Shirou and the other children to (initially) think he's crazy or messing around.
Nightmare Retardant: Heaven's Feel having far more Bad Ends then the other routes loses it's impact when many of them have Shirou suffering the same deaths again and again, to the point where him dying can lose its impact.
No Yay: Sums up a large portion of the hero villain interactions:
When Ilya's interactions with Shirou aren't cute, she comes off as a possessive stalker. Special mention to when she asks him to "be mine" in Fate and image looks like she's about to rape him. (Double extra bonus points come from Word of God saying that there was a particularly intense H-scene there at one point in the drafting process!)
Gilgamesh towards Saber. He claims her as property like he does everything else and most his comments involve trying to rape her. Even his remarks that he's attracted to her more because she's repulsed by him don't help.
Caster and Saber when she has her captured in Unlimited Blade Works. Caster seems to relish in Saber's pain, off-screen stripped her naked and put her in a revealing dress, and the narrations imply she intends to use her Command Spells to make Saber into a sex slave.
Shinji towards pretty much any female character he meets. His interactions with Rin are only the exception because he's too afraid of her to make any advances until the Attempted Rape towards the end of Unlimited Blade Works.
One True Threesome: There are two, Shirou/Saber/Rin and Shirou/Sakura/Rider. First is played straight by Unlimited Blade Works route and completely fulfilled in Good End of this route. Second is slightly hinted in Heaven's Feel route. Both are expanded at various levels in Fate/Hollow Ataraxia and many other associated works or materials and very popular in fandom.
Paranoia Fuel: Servants can be anywhere and attack any given moment, and you will often be dead before you realize. They can even masquerade as normal humans. Unlimited Blade Works highlights the idea that people you have known for years can turn out to be a rival Master.
In Unlimited Blade Works, Ilya's death might not have carried as much weight were it not for the fact that you have to play through Fate first (where you befriend her), and watch a particularly heart-rending interlude first.
Heaven's Feel has six simple words: "Save Saber"/"Bring the knife down". Guess which one is the right choice. The Good-Times Montage and the music that accompanies that particular scene makes it hurt even more. Way to twist the knife there, Nasu.
Rewatch Bonus: If you had finished Fate/stay night and initially thought Rin Tohsaka was filled with worms during an interlude from Heaven's Feel, revisiting the route as a whole leads you to realize that the "daughter of Tohsaka" Zouken was referring to is Sakura Tohsaka/Matou, who was adopted into the Matou family before the Fourth Holy Grail War and was corrupted by Angra Mainyu after her grandfather implanted the worms into her so that she could be a Holy Grail vessel.
Similarly, once you know that Archer is future Shirou all their previous interactions in UBW, as well as in Fate and Heaven's Feel takes on a different meaning.
Knowing in advance that Kotomine is a villain leads his monologues having a different meaning when he first appears.
Shirou in the Visual Novels is fairly tolerable when compared to his other versions:
His Fate incarnation is mainly accused for being a Vanilla Protagonist whose relationship with Saber is unrealistic and even Urobuchi agrees (although Nasu argued against Urobuchi's opinion), believing that it's mostly a "complicated relationship with a boy who became a girl". A good number of fans softened their opinion on him after finding out that his Character Development and relationship with Saber are more focused on their Survivor's Guilt and personal issues in regards to their past failures than his Ideal Hero beliefs. Even the critics are looking forward to his and Saber's relationship, calling it "interesting".
That being said, works that emphasize his gentler side also end up providing a bit of leeway for Shirou. Series like Carnival Phantasm and Today's Menu for Emiya Family are appreciated for easing up on his issues and focusing more on him as a person, preventing him from becoming too much of a Stock Light-Novel Hero with all the attention modern adaptations give to his feats.
Time has been rather kind to Sakura. While she was the least popular of the three heroines originally and did have many people complain about her Damsel in Distress moments in Heaven's Feel alongside her antics with the Shadow and as Dark Sakura, later revisits to her story found her to be sympathetic. Her relationship with Rider as seen in Hollow Ataraxia, as well as her bonding moments with Shirou and Rin in spinoffs, did well to humanize her outside of her predicaments with the Matous. In Japan at least her reception has been much better considering all that.
The Scrappy: While Shirou in general is more of a Base-Breaking Character than this, his portrayal in the 2006 DEEN anime in particular gets a good deal of flak, especially from fans of the VN or other routes. It's arguably the reason why he was ranked 7th, 11th, and 12th in all three character popularity polls respectively.
Replacement Scrappy: True Assassin is widely regarded by fans as a poor replacement of Assassin for not getting much characterization and being pathetically weaker than the rest of the Servants. His expanded characterization in Fate/Grand Order seems to soften the blow for longtime fans, however.
"Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: While the Studio DEEN anime adaptation was quite well-received when it came out, particularly for animation that was actually pretty good for the time, it was pretty much hit by a freight train of Overshadowed by Awesome in every respect (especially the animation) by every anime adaptation of the franchise since, especially ufotable 's versions of Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]. A good number of fans (especially those that got into the franchise via the ufotable adaptations) will tell you to skip the former and watch the latter two, or better yet, start with the original VN, and a bit of a Broken Base exists between these fans and the DEEN anime's remaining defenders (including those that first got into the franchise partially or wholly through it). One thing near-universally agreed to have aged well about it, however? The soundtrack. The 2006 seiyuu cast was also solid enough that most of them continued voicing subsequent incarnations of their characters over the following decade.
The Fate route as a whole suffers from this. While things like Saber's identity as King Arthur, Kotomine being a villain, Gilgamesh being a thing, and even the nature of the grail war might have been surprises to people reading the visual novel back in 2004, nowadays, almost all of that is common knowledge, even among people that don't know much about Fate, let alone somebody that got into the franchise through Zero or Grand Order. Meaning that, unless you just really like Saber, the route is far less interesting nowadays than the other two.
Sequel Displacement: Within Fate itself, the Fate route gets massively overshadowed by UBW and HF, in part thanks to a good chunk of characterization that can be found in the latter routes only and the fact that currently it's the only route that has not been adapted by ufotable. Much like its anime adaptation, unless they're fans of Shirou x Saber, you'll find people telling you to skip the first route and move on to the other two.
Ship-to-Ship Combat: It's a VN with three potential love interests, each one with a route dedicated to them. You do the math. And that's only for starters. Include other characters like Archer or Rider and it all goes Up to Eleven.
Strangled by the Red String: Shirou and Sakura's romance in Heavens Feel suffers a bit from this compared to the other routes romance arcs. The issue lies mainly with Shirou however, as Sakura having a crush on Shirou has been evident since as early as the Fate route. In the Fate and UBW route, Shirou's romance develops from shared experiences in the Grail War, such as he and Saber's Survivor's Guilt, and for Rin, starts because Shirou confirms he respected her from afar and is implied to have developed feelings for her from said respect. In the case of Sakura however, Shirou very suddenly notices how attractive Sakura is not long into the Heavens Feel route and finds himself lusting after her right away. This is in contrast to Shirou's romance with Saber, where he doesn't truly fall for her until a good ways until the route, and seeing her nearly killed by Berserker on day 1 was the start of his relationship with her. This sudden change in his views on Sakura is very jarring, and feels out of place given that Shirou has known Sakura longer than the other heroines, and yet suddenly finds her attractive enough that he is willing to abandon his ideals and beliefs to be with her. It comes across less as Shirou awakening to a Childhood Friend Romance, and instead having a switch go off by the writers to make him fall for Sakura.
Vanilla Protagonist: A common complaint of the DEEN adaptation is this. Shirou has no history of magic or any desire to compete in the Holy Grail War. This makes him contrast with the other mages, whose pasts are colored by generations. It's Played for Drama in the VN, particularly for the other two routes, where the player realizes he's so vanilla because he's a borderline Empty Shell. He lost any sense of self and identity in the fire and is essentially dead inside.
At one point, it is revealed that Rider feels insecure about being too tall for a girl. This is an issue that a lot of real life girls can relate to... Except for the fact that Rider is only 172cm tall, which depending on where you live, could be considered as rather short. More than value differences, it shows the differences in physical heights between different societies.
Onii-chan is infamous among anime fans in the West for being Japanese for "big brother", but it's also used in Japan to address strangers who are young men (like calling them "mister"). As a result, Shirou being Illya's long-lost adopted brother comes off as The Un-Twist for Western fans that aren't aware of this term's broader usage in Japan, while this is a Double MeaningForeshadowing for anyone that knows better Japanese.
Heaven's Feel revealed Sakura allowed Shinji to take control of Rider on the promise that he wouldn't kill Shirou, and just took Shinji's word on it, despite her having no reason to trust him. Naturally this leads to Shirou's near death in each route, and Sakura never suspects anything even when Shinji attempts to murder the entire school with Rider.
Also in Heaven's Feel, after Archer managed to force True Assassin to retreat, Rin decided it was a good idea to stop and congratulate Shirou for surviving, despite still being in battle with The Shadow. This of course allows The Shadow to get the jump on her, forcing Archer to sacrifice himself to protect her.
The Woobie: Practically every character in the game is this, to some extent.