Fate/Zero (フェイト／ゼロ, Feito/Zero?) is a novel written by Gen Urobuchi as a prequel to Fate/stay night, with illustrations by Takashi Takeuchi. The project was supervised by Kinoko Nasu, who looked over the draft for the new characters and the plot. The first volume was released on December 12, 2006, and is a collaboration between TYPE-MOON and fellow developer Nitro+. The second volume was released on March 31, 2007. The third volume was released on July 27, 2007. The fourth and final volume was released on December 29, 2007, along with the Fate/Zero Original Image Soundtrack "Return to Zero". Four sets of Drama CDs were released from 2008 to 2010. From 2011 to 2012, an anime adaption of the series was produced by ufotable.
Because of certain minor details such as whether Gilgamesh had seen Excalibur or not during the 4th Holy Grail War, Fate/Zero is treated as being in an extremely similar parallel world to Fate/stay night. Fate/Zero takes place 10 years prior to the events of Fate/stay night in the year 1994, detailing the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City. Originally founded by the Einzbern, Tohsaka, and Matou families, the war involves seven Masters and seven Servants under seven classes: Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin and Berserker.
After being defeated in three successive wars for the Holy Grail, the Einzbern family is determined to win the next one at any cost and elects to hire the notorious Magus Killer, Kiritsugu Emiya, to become their representative in spite of his reputation as an unconventional and ruthless hitman. For the next eight years, he prepares the war in the Einzbern stronghold while unexpectedly forming a family with Irisviel von Einzbern, who is to become the vessel for the Grail, and their daughter, Illyasviel. However, Kiritsugu must contend with six formidable opponents, all participating in the war for their own reasons.
From one of the three founding families, the magus Tokiomi Tohsaka wants to achieve Akasha through the Holy Grail, receiving support from the priest Risei Kotomine and his son, Kirei Kotomine, who is also unexpectedly a master in the war. Unlike Tokiomi, Kirei has no direction in life and soon sets his sights on Kiritsugu as an answer to the frustrating lack of meaning in his life.
Meanwhile, Kariya Matou becomes a Master after learning Tokiomi's younger daughter, Sakura, was adopted into the Matou family. In hopes of saving her from suffering at the hands of Zouken Matou, he agrees to win the Holy Grail in exchange for her freedom to return to her family.
After learning of the war and taken by arrogance, Clock Tower magus and lecturer Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald decides to join the battle to increase his own prominence within the Mage's Association. However, his dismissive attitude towards the radical theories of his student, Waver Velvet, drives the young man to steal Lord El-Melloi's artifact and participate in the war in order to force the Mage's Association to recognize his genius.
When a seventh magus fails to answer the Grail's call, a serial killer named Ryuunosuke Uryuu is chosen to become the final Master in the war. Seeking exciting new ways of killing people, he winds up summoning a Servant from an occult book and proceeds to commit as many unusual murders as he can with the help of his Servant.
As the war begins, only one will emerge victorious.
- Kiritsugu Emiya (衛宮切嗣, Emiya Kiritsugu?)
- Master of Saber. A ruthless assassin skilled in hunting heretic magicians, Kiritsugu adopts a strategy of exploiting a magus' weak point using technology. The Einzbern family adopted Kiritsugu as their Master in the Grail War in a desperate attempt to overcome their family's lack of battle-oriented magic.
- Irisviel von Einzbern
- Mother of Illyasviel von Einzbern and Kiritsugu's wife, Irisviel, or Iris, is one of the heroines of the story. A homunculus prototype created by the Einzbern family with the idea to give birth to an ultimate homunculus, Iris was designed to absorb the energies released by the Servants upon their deaths in order to summon forth the Holy Grail. Like many of the Einzberns, she is skilled in alchemy. Irisviel serves as Saber's proxy Master, since Kiritsugu believes that he and Saber are incompatible. Because of this strategy, Kiritsugu is free throughout most of the war to act independently of Saber's signature, stealthily waging war on the other Masters.
- Kirei Kotomine (言峰綺礼, Kotomine Kirei?)
- Master of Assassin, Kotomine studied magic under Tokiomi and initially does everything he is asked to do to further Tokiomi's goals in the war. Kotomine lacks fulfillment, which he sees mirrored in Kiritsugu, for whom he feels a compulsive hatred. He eventually seeks out the Holy Grail for his own reasons, to better understand why his life has been wholly unfulfilling.
- Tokiomi Tohsaka (遠坂時臣, Tōsaka Tokiomi?)
- Father of Rin Tohsaka and Sakura Matou, Tohsaka Tokiomi is the Master of Archer, who shares his penchant for being arrogant and manipulative. Tokiomi arranges for Kotomine Kirei to be his "pupil" in order to further his own ambitions within the war.
- Aoi Tohsaka (遠坂葵, Tōsaka Aoi?)
- Mother of Rin Tohsaka and Sakura Matou, Aoi is the childhood friend of the Matou Master, Kariya Matou. Though she is devastated by Tokiomi's decision to adopt away Sakura, she quietly accepts the decision as the wife of a mage.
- Waver Velvet
- Master of Rider, and the future Lord El-Melloi II. Waver steals his teacher's artifact and uses it to summon Rider in a plan to use the Grail to force the Magus Association to recognize his genius. Despite his difficulties with Rider's overbearing nature, Waver and his Servant form a strong and sincere relationship.
- Maiya Hisau (久宇舞弥, Hisau Maiya?)
- Loyal assistant to Kiritsugu Emiya, although Hisau Maiya is not her real name. She is cold and professional, though she does harbor a soft spot for Kiritsugu. Maiya is rarely seen without her Steyr AUG.
- Kariya Matou (間桐雁夜, Matō Kariya?)
- Uncle of Shinji Matou, Master of Berserker, Kariya makes a deal with his father Zouken Matou that he will win the Grail War in exchange for Sakura Matou's freedom. He originally refused to learn the Matou magic as the oldest son, which meant becoming a Master in the war would be life-threatening in the best case. He is the only member of Matou family who truly loves Sakura, and is upset that Tokiomi allowed his younger daughter to be adopted by Zouken.
- Ryuunosuke Uryuu (雨生龍之介, Uryū Ryūnosuke?)
- Master of Caster, Ryuunosuke is a psychotic killer who summons Caster after murdering a family and using their blood as a component in the summoning ritual. He does not seek the Holy Grail, but follows Caster in order to find new thrilling ways to murder people and relieve his boredom. He was not officially trained as a magus and was a last-minute addition to the war by the Holy Grail.
- Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald
- Master of Lancer and a fifth-generation nobleman from the Magus Association. His artifact is stolen by Waver Velvet, but he manages to summon Lancer using a second catalyst. He is a genius in the art of convocation, which allows him to alter his contract with Lancer to have two Masters. Because of this, he holds the command spells for Lancer, while the energy to materialize the Servant is maintained by his fiancee Sola-Ui. He is confident in his abilities and takes pride in his heritage, and finds the extent of Kiritsugu's unorthodox and underhanded tactics both offensive and unexpectedly challenging to overcome.
- Sola-Ui Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri
- The daughter of the head of the spiritual evocation division, Sola-Ui is engaged to Kayneth as a result of a strategic marriage arrangement and the decision of her family to entrust their crest to her brother instead. However, she is coldhearted and does not reciprocate Kayneth's love for her; instead, she becomes infatuated with Lancer, who in turn does not reciprocate her feelings and regards her only as his Master's wife.
- Risei Kotomine (言峰璃正, Kotomine Risei?)
- Kirei Kotomine's 80 year old father, a priest in the Church, and the regulator of the 4th Holy Grail War. He is a friend of Tohsaka Tokiomi and actively supports him, to the extent of offering his son Kirei as Tokiomi's pupil and puppet in the war. While he is proud of his son, who has demonstrated himself to be a perfect heir, Risei fails to understand Kirei in any sense.
Servants participating in the Fourth Holy Grail War and their true identities include the following:
- Artoria Pendragon, the same character from Fate/Stay Night. Known as the King of Knights, she maintains a high code of honor. Though she and Kiritsugu are Servant and Master seeking the same ultimate goal of peace, their differing ideological perspectives result in a strained relationship where Kiritsugu does not directly acknowledge Saber. Kiritsugu allows Saber to accompany Irisviel as a decoy to allow him stealth tactics within the war, and she becomes good friends with Iris as a result.
- Gilgamesh, a rogue Servant in Fate/Stay Night and the King of Heroes. Gilgamesh is arrogant and superior in his attitude and actions towards both Masters and Servants, including his own Master Tokiomi. He respects the kingships of Saber and Rider and sees them as "rebels" that are worthy of his attention. Much to Tokiomi's displeasure, Gilgamesh has difficulty acting covertly, especially when his considerable pride is wounded.
- Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, a Servant with two Noble Phantasms: Gae Buidhe - Golden Rose of Mortality and Gae Dearg - Crimson Rose of Exorcism, which can counter Saber and Berserker's abilities. As a knight, he holds a strong sense of honour in battle and loyalty to his master. He and Saber develop a mutual respect for one another, which is not mirrored by their Masters. As when he was alive, a cursed beauty mark bewitches Sola-Ui, creating a fissure between her and Lancer's Master.
- Iskander (Alexander the Great), the King of Conquerors, who desires to defeat Saber and Lancer in particular. Has several Noble Phantasms, the first of which is Gordius Wheel - Wheel of Heaven's Authority, which summons an ox-drawn chariot when Iskander slices the air with his sword. His eccentric and overbearing personality along with his incredible abilities creates difficulties for his Master and their opponents. His attitude as a king is dramatically different from Saber's which generates great conflict between them.
- Bluebeard (Gilles de Rais), a Servant who derives pleasure from first providing his victims a moment of relief before terrorizing them and then killing them. Bluebeard expresses an interest in Saber because he has mistaken her for Jeanne d'Arc, with whom Bluebeard has an infatuation. He bonds with his Master Ryuunosuke through over-extravagant and unorthodox methods of murder.
- Lancelot du Lac (previously known as the Black Knight), a Servant who possesses the ability to use practically any object as a Noble Phantasm, allowing him to match Gilgamesh in combat. To make up for Matou Kariya's inexperience as a magus, he was intentionally given Mad Enhancement to enhance his battle parameters. His madness has reduced him to a mindless, though dangerously skilled, fighter. Despite his insanity, he is still able to instinctively recognize Saber due to his familiarity with King Arthur in life.
- The Assassins related to True Assassin from Fate/Stay Night; Assassin is actually composed of different personalities of one Heroic Spirit manifested into different bodies. They act as reconnaissance agents for Tokiomi and Kirei after Gilgamesh "kills" one of them, operating while the other Masters believe Assassin to have been completely removed from the war.
- Rin Tohsaka (遠坂凛, Tōsaka Rin?)
- The daughter of Tokiomi and Aoi Tōsaka. Despite her young age, she is capable of using elementary magic. Like her older version in Fate/Stay Night, Rin is confident and admirable in the public face, while being determined and critical of herself as a mage.
- Sakura Matou (間桐桜, Matō Sakura?)
- Rin's younger sister, who was adopted by the Matou family one year prior to the start of Fourth Holy Grail War. Her physical appearance has already changed considerably since her adoption because of the influence of Zouken Matou's teaching methods.
- Illyasviel von Einzbern
- The daughter of Irisviel von Einzbern and Kiritsugu Emiya, born eight years before the Fourth Holy Grail War begins. She awaits the return of her father at the Einzbern castle in Germany.
- Jubstacheit von Einzbern
- The eighth head of the von Einzbern family, known as "Acht". Nearly two centuries old, he has led the von Einzbern family since they changed their course of action from seeking the Holy Grail to attempting to obtain it through the Holy Grail Wars. He presents Kiritsugu Emiya with Avalon as the catalyst to summon Saber.
- Zouken Matou (間桐 臓硯, Matō Zōken?)
- The ancient head of the Matou family, Kariya's "uncle" and Sakura's adoptive "grandfather". He intends to use Sakura to obtain the Holy Grail in the next war, but agrees to return her to the Tohsaka family should Kariya manage to acquire the Grail in the fourth war.
- Glen and Martha Mackenzie
- An elderly Canadian couple who live in Japan; their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson were unable to adapt to Japan and have returned to Canada. They provide lodgings for Waver Velvet and Rider after Waver enchants them to believe that he is their grandson.
- Norikata Emiya (衛宮 矩賢, Emiya Norikata?)
- Kiritsugu's father, a fourth-generation magus and researcher on a Pacific island. His work involved developing a medicine to become a Dead Apostle and when a war breaks out between the Church and the Mage's Association, Noritaka attempts to flee with his son. Unable to forgive his father for his actions, a young Kiritsugu shoots him, spiraling the child into a life of mercenary work.
- Norikata's assistant, who admired Noritaka's work and looked forward to succeeding him. When she drank a potion under development out of curiosity, she unfortunately transformed into a vampire and dies. Kiritsugu later reflects that Taiga Fujimura reminds him of Shirley.
- Natalia Kaminski
- A freelance mercenary who sold information concerning Noritaka and his research on vampires. She rescues a young Kiritsugu and takes him as her apprentice. During her last mission, she is able to successfully kill a magus that could create Ghouls through the use of ghoul bees, but dies when Kiritsugu shoots down the plane she is on to prevent the infected passengers from killing others when the plane landed. Kiritsugu's last words to her reveal that he viewed her as his mother.
- Shirou Emiya (衛宮 士郎, Emiya Shirō?)
- The main protagonist of Fate/Stay Night, Kiritsugu rescued Shirou after the Fourth Heaven's Feel and later adopted him. Shirou admired Kiritsugu's dream of saving the world, and takes on his adopted father's dreams as his own after his death.
The project began when Nitro+ writer, Gen Urobuchi, met with Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi. Takeuchi suggested a prequel proposal to Urobuchi, who had been experiencing writer's block while attempting to write a happy story. Urobuchi, who was known for his tragic stories, agreed to become the writer for the project. Though Urobuchi is the writer for the series, the project was supervised by Kinoko Nasu, who looked over the draft for the new characters and the plot. The latter thought that even if the end is very dramatic, the current end of Fate/stay night would not be affected thanks to the fact that Emiya Kiritsugu's life is a prequel. While he was already writing the first volume, Urobuchi had planned the series to end with the fourth volume. In Fate/hollow ataraxia, there was teaser poster of Fate/Zero in one of the background images. It is confirmed in the postface of Fate/Zero Volume 1 that the first volume was already complete by the time Hollow Ataraxia released.
The first volume was released by TYPE-MOON Books on December 12, 2006, and the fourth and final volume was released on December 29, 2007. Due to its success, the novel series was later adapted into an anime by ufotable.
- Vol. 1: The Untold Story of the Fourth Holy Grail War / 第四次聖杯戦争秘話
- Vol. 2: The Mad Feast of Kings / 王たちの狂宴
- Vol. 3: The Scattered Ones / 散りゆく者たち
- Vol. 4: The Flames of Purgatory / 煉獄の炎
A second series of novels were later released under Seikaisha Bunko in 2011. There are six novels in total. These are smaller more spread out versions of the original novels.
- Vol. 1: The Untold Story of the Fourth Holy Grail War / 第四次聖杯戦争秘話
- Vol. 2: Gathering of Heroic Spirits / 英霊参集
- Vol. 3: The Mad Feast of Kings / 王たちの狂宴
- Vol. 4: The Scattered Ones / 散りゆく者たち
- Vol. 5: The Quickening Darkness / 闇の胎動
- Vol. 6: The Flames of Purgatory / 煉獄の炎
- Main article: Fate/Zero (manga)
Fourteen volumes were released from 2010 to 2017.
- Main article: Fate/Zero (anime)
- Main article: Sound Drama Fate/Zero
- Fate/Zero Special Drama CD - Dreaming Lady
- Fate/Zero Special Drama CD - Unhesitating People
- Fate/Zero Special Drama CD - The Outsiders’ Performance
- Fate/Zero Special Drama CD - Eat in Taishan
- Fate/Zero Anthology Drama CD - Trials of the Matou Family
- Fate/Zero Anthology Drama CD - Artoria Romance
- Fate/Zero Drama CD I
- Fate/Zero Drama CD II