I suspect this answer is different for all of us and I imagine we have all found ourselves trying to explain to a friend why they should at least give it a chance. And no matter how hard we may try, they just cant see anything more than a cartoon.
But we see it differently. We know that anime, and animation for that matter, allows for greater freedom then live action can ever provide.
Its the novelization of the visual arts.
My field of study is political science, but I have always loved writing stories. I hear it all the time, that in order to become a better writer you must read. While I don't doubt that, I just cant get inspired by the written word. But I do when I watch anime. So that's my answer.
I anime to be inspired. I anime in order to build the foundation of a world of my own creation.
So ask yourself, why do you anime?
Animation, despite being inherently expensive, is cheaper than live-action much of the time. Thus, you can tell any story you could possibly want, and there'd be very little to stop you (unless your story requires 700+ episodes, in which case you'd better have damn strong backing).
And since Japanese film studios aren't as big or as lucrative as American film studios, it simply makes more sense to work with animation than with live actors and sets.
Another big draw is visual style. More than in live-action, you can give your story a distinct look that sets it apart, whether it be a comedy or a drama.
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