Why people like anime?
A good question. My take is that it's contrast with the Real World, and idealism.
>1) Anime is colourful
Contrary to Western media, where we moved towards stories where characters suffer through apocalypses, tragedies, while using a gray-blue colour palette, you can guess why the colourful depictions of anime might woo someone who doesn't want to spent all of his time looking at "more of the same", that is, people suffering in a quasi-real setting.
>2) Anime is a-materialist
We live in a society where the singular value-system is money. Nothing escapes the black hole of capitalism. Visual arts, literature, free time activities, family, all restructured in agreement with capitals needs.
Anime on a meta-level is no different. It has merchandise, adaptations, and is geared towards the obsessive fan-market to squeeze as much money out of the product as possible.
On a story scale, as in, on an organic, tissue level, this is not the case. Money is scarcely the issue for characters in anime.
Let us dissect their problems into categories
A)Need to achieve an act of heroism (quasi-Old Epics)
B)A quest for love (quasi-Western Romance)
C)Slice of life show with no goal (no western equivalent)
D)Lone guy suffering alone, trying to achieve something (Reminiscent of a lot of modern western novels, but here the target demographic is younger)
Even if money is the problem, it's usually solved through a deus ex machina
The monetary needs of the characters are solved in every show. It's either never mentioned or they are on a tight budget but "we can buy meat this once, watashi no imouto
". And add to the fact that there are no anime characters who are famous for being rich. Capitalist power is never depicted, they struggle for political power instead, which is completely separated from the power provided by money.
In a sense, their relations and plots are a lot more primordial and "genuine", even if they resort to using stock characters, simply because intra-anime relationships were never re-structured by the implementation of market-liberalism on a monetary or on a sexual level.
Basically, anime never attempts to copy the current reality, and instead, opts to use older, pre-capitalist concepts of destiny, love and heroism. Which leads to
3) Anime is idealist, not realist
It's wish fulfilment too, but not necessarily a power fantasy. The characters don't necessarily have to grow to fall in love with one another when it comes to love. It's just like in a lot of Chinese short stories. That Cai-zi
(Young, aspiring scholar) was meant to marry that raven haired, thin necked girl with a jade skin after finishing first place at the imperial examination. It was meant to be that way, who gives a toss about the rest.
No ambitions to portray how things are, but rather, how things should
Dangers are rarely "real". Instead of possible pitfalls, they act like soil for growth.
Now, if we want to condense it into a shorter form, then we could say that it's exotic (even if it's tainted by a local form of materialism, we can't perceive it, for example, merchandise is out of our reach, we CAN'T get hold of the "poison", even if it's advertised.), it's unarguably eye catching, and for roughly 20 minutes it eases the constant pain inflicted on you by rootless materialism like morphine. I think I wrote a post like this once. Correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe it was just a dream, or an unfinished essay.