Fate Zero is many things. It is one of if not the prettiest anime out there. It has some of the best characters. It has an interesting premise with a compelling enough narrative to demand you devour it in one or two sittings. It also, unfortunately, is tethered to a terrible series which holds it back from being a legendary title.
Fate Zero cuts right to the chase: Seven mages with historic, legendary spirits as their servants are competing in an all out battle to the death for the Holy Grail- A relic which can grant the winners wish. It is a fairly simple concept and the plot is entirely limited to the tournament but the series does a magnificent job of conveying the scope of this event so it ends up feeling epic, as it well should.
The beginning is mostly build up, though personally this didnt bother me as I wanted to get to know the characters before they started to drop and there was plenty of action sprinkled in. Anyone who disliked the small bodycount however will be satisfied with the second season which very much resembles a vastly superior Basilisk, where anyone can die at any moment.
The world is pretty interesting and even the most bizarre elements are handled gracefully- Never jarring you into disbelief. However despite how great the story is it is not without its faults. Some of the magical concepts and rules are not properly explained and just thrown in the viewers face which can be confusing such as the rules to maintaining a servant in the world, the concept of a grail vessel, the conditions for winning, and that all the servants dont need to die to activate the grail- Just a particular ritual. In the last two episodes this is particularly apparent as some things that dont even make sense after an internet search occur.
Anyone who sees this and thinks it looks bad is lying.
This is where Fate Zero shines the most. Nearly every character has depth, in some cases surprisingly so, and even those with little prove entertaining or interesting. The pairings of the characters further enhance their qualities- some being paired with individuals utterly unlike themselves, extremely similar, or somewhere inbetween. In some cases the servant steals the show, in others it is the summoner, or they both stand out. In other words the lack of a formula is a huge strength. Furthermore oftentimes the summoners or servants will interact with one another, exchanging their ideals as well as blows- With which this cast is very interesting.
To name a couple of the primary characters we have:
Kirei- A terrible person and a character who if executed with less tact could have come off as completely unbelieveable. As it is his mindset, although very warped is clear and even understandable in that humans do need conflict.
Emiya- The protagonist done right. Too many times does the hero suceed simply by believing in his friends, himself, or simply because he is the good guy. Emiya is a the end justifies the means type guy- And while he isnt as extreme(or sociopathic) as say, Yagami Light, he commands the same attention and operates logically and is comfortable with manipulation as opposed to being the goody two shoes.
Saber- She isnt a great character due to he own merits so much as she is used to break the cliche. It would have been easy to tout her character as the noble and chivalrous archetype- Instead various characters poke her and her ideals full of holes which is a refreshing sight indeed.
Rider- Charismatic and downright awesome- which is amplified by his summoner being lacking. He is a genuinely friendly guy who is also ambitious and not afraid to voice his opinions.
Gilgamesh- Seemingly generic cocky antagonistic individual who proves to actually have an interesting personality and grows on you over time.