The Holy Grail grants wishes, but only to those who have earned the right to touch it. It only manifests itself to the winner of the Grail War -- a war between seven magicians who command seven Servants. The Servants are spirits of deceased heroes, summoned to this world by the magicians. Only one combo can be the winner, and both their wishes will be granted.
Shiro is the adopted son of a magician. He has not much magical talent himself, except for a knack of finding the faults in a mechanical device. Without wanting to, he gets involved in the Grail War after witnessing a fight between two Servants. Without knowing what he is doing, he summons his own Servant: Saber, the strongest of the seven possible classes of Servant.
But because he is not a fully fledged magician, Shiro and Saber are at a disadvantage. Shiro's classmate Tohsaka, who is also a participant in the Grail War, forges and alliance with him and teaches him what he needs to know.
The story meanders a bit. Sure, one by one the Masters are taken care of, but it seems unnatural that the other Masters don't move on their own and instead wait for Shiro to make his move. Realistically, there would be other fights than those directly witnessed by Shiro and/or Saber.
There are other plot-threads, like Shiro falling in love with Saber, and Saber's past as King Arthur (no kidding, King Arthur wore an armored dress!).
Most of the time, Shiro's troubles can be solved by fighting harder. Confrontations against the various Masters are always resolved by a flashy fight -- there is hardly ever any subterfuge involved. Only at the end of the series is it revealed that the seventh Master has out-smarted all of the others (including Shiro). But again, it 'only' takes a fight to bring this final opponent to his knees.
Visually, the series is quite appealing. The character designs are quite detailed, and the various digital effects (explosions, Servants fading into invisibility etcetera) are executed masterfully. There is no stock footage to speak of.
The music is OKish (though the second opening theme is horrible), and the voice acting is quite decent -- though Shiro tends to spend most of his time shouting encouragements to Saber, which gets a bit boring after some time. The characters themselves lack much personality, which makes it hard to care about what happens to them.
- Interesting premise;
- Good visuals, excellent digital effects.
- Cookie-cutter characters;
- Nobody seems to behave in such a way to make the most of their tactical position.
All in all, a 7. Could have been so much more.