When you think “romance,” you think of something sentimental or slow-moving, with a strong emphasis on emotion and feelings. Anime romances in particular dial up the sex jokes as far as they can go and do not let go. But one anime surprised me with its approach: Kaze no Stigma. It is a romance made to look like an action series.
It begins like a typical show of this type, with the male hero Kazuma and the female fire-wielder Ayano doing battle with marauding villains.
But after the second episode, you notice something: the villain changes. Then changes again. Then changes some more, without any reference to someone pulling the strings from afar. You do not see a typical “final villain” until the second half of the series, and even then, he isn’t the focus of the climax, nor is he responsible for the crises in the first half.
However, one thing remains constant: Kazuma and Ayano’s relationship. With every battle, they grow closer together, and the climax wasn’t some grand clash of powers, but Ayano trying to get through to Kazuma, the man she loves, after he had gone crazy and attacked his allies.
Also, Kazuma would have constant flashbacks about his dead ex-girlfriend.
All of this was done in an action plot, as opposed to a slower-moving slice of life plot. The only other series I know of that does this is Inuyasha.
I bring this up because Kaze no Stigma shows that romances that men would watch can be written well. Though the series is obscure, its plot is one of the more unique ones I’ve seen.