I know that a number of bloggers have decided to do just one review for Fate/Zero but I don't trust myself to be able to remember the first half perfectly come late June when the second half finishes airing so I'll just be a little different and talk about it now. As a heads up, I have never seen Fate/Stay Night and don't particularly want to either. I've read a lot about it (after the first episode of this show I went over to tvtropes, skimmed the F/SN page and looked at the characters to figure out who was related to who), read some reviews for it, and know the general gist of the plot but finding out that Studio Deen produced the show really didn't make me want to watch it. So why did I try out F/Z in the first place? A little after I had finished up my fall previews I went to a meet-up with some local anime fans I knew, we've all been friends for years now, and one of them was talking about how much she was enjoying the show ("Oh Rin, your father was SUCH a bastard") and you could tell she was honestly loved the show so I thought why not? And sometimes that's all it takes to get me to watch something, sometimes anyway.
Summary: 10 years before the Fifth Holy Grail War of Fate/Stay Night there was the Fourth Holy Grail War where once again seven magi, Masters, summoned seven heroic spirits, the Servants, in a battle to the last Master/Servant pair and the winners get one wish granted by the grail. The story follows each of the Master/Servant pairs but puts special focus on Kiritsugu Emiya and on his servant, the same Saber of F/SN, as they as they try to survive and win the deadly game.
The Good: Unusually for me I really dislike about half the cast of this show yet I'm still interested in what most of them are plotting and, once the show gets into the swing of it, even the talking dominated episodes are rather interesting. It's particularly interesting to hear not why the Masters are participating in the Grail War, since many of them don't have a clear goal in mind, but what the Servants hope to achieve and fleshed them out much more than I was expecting. And, even if I may despise some of them, I'm happy that each Master-Servant relationship is different and many of them already feel very nicely fleshed out as are the characters in general. You can imagine any two of the Masters or any two of the Servants meeting and already know how their encounter would go, not every series can boast that kind of character depth, especially after just thirteen episodes.
The Bad: The place chosen to break the series in half wasn't an especially good place to stop, couldn't they have at least shown a few moments of a fight scene to tide us over until the spring? I've seen some novel readers say they expected the series to stop here, so I guess that means there isn't a much better stopping point farther along, but that does make me wonder why they choose to make a split cour series after all, give the animators time to catch back up? The start of the series also wasn't so great, 40 minutes of talking with some necessary world building but I really think that some of it could have been spread out more, it's a real test of your patience if you aren't already a fan of the franchise (likewise, for the episodes that were focused on conversations between characters I didn't really like were also a bit of a drag to get through but that was because of personal taste, not bad writing).
The Audio: I was so focused on the visuals that I didn't pay as much attention to the audio in this show but it worked well. The characters were well voiced, I liked the opening and ending themes, none of the background music felt jarring or out of place, it just worked.
The Visuals: Part of the reason I don't want to see Fate/Stay Night is because Studio Deen does not produce very good looking anime and this is one of the best looking series from all of 2011. Gorgeous fights, loads of details, and it's clear that the same people who worked on Garden of Sinners worked on this as well, they used the same distinctive blue and red color combination for some of the magic scenes and made it look good, they have an excellent grasp on color. In short, the show is eye candy (although not just eye candy) and looked consistently great for 13 episodes and I applaud Ufotable for that.
I'm looking forward to the second half of the show coming out in the spring (good lord, there's already so much spring anime that I want to watch!) and I can see myself owning this someday, probably even on BR because of how gorgeous the show works, but no way in hell am I going to buy that $300+ BR set of the first 13 episodes. That's five different kinds of crazy and I can only hope that Aniplex does put out a reasonably priced (like, comparable to Funimation or Nozomi prices) sets, 13 episode or full season, in a year or two.