Because of the differences in their brain chemistry, men and women love differently. Specifically for women, this is because of a hypergamous instinct which has helped our species propagate and change gradually for millions of years. Their dominant role in reproduction means that they have to be more selective when it comes to finding a partner, as we know. It is better for them to partner with someone who is of equal or greater status than themselves in order to best ensure the survival of their offspring and themselves.
This principle largely does not apply to their two-dimensional counterparts. Creators and producers of the anime medium and other Japanese non-live action media, such as manga and visual novels, have created desirable female and male characters as part of a socioeconomic response to Japan’s work-first society and the Lost Decades.
During the Lost Decades, Japan experienced slow economic growth which helped to accelerate boys’ and men’s exit from the stringent society. Like the western countries, Japan is gynocentric, in this case, through a more traditionalist sense reminiscent of the early to middle 20th century. Society deems men largely to be the breadwinners and deems women mostly to take care of the home and the finances. Beyond a male’s or a female’s adolescent years that are considered the best period of their life, adulthood is quite rigid. Couple this with an overarching expectation of 60+-hour work weeks that lead to increased risks of mental illness, physical ailments, suicide, and death, and it’s easy to see why Japan has potentially millions of hikikomori, parasite singles, and herbivore men who have no desire to commit to relationships and society itself.
Even after performing personal cost-benefit analyses, it is not as if these men instinctually did not want to have relationships or to admire women. Logic cannot overcome millions of years of evolution and biological programming, and Japanese non-live action creators, male and female, definitely realized that. They also knew that creating female characters with personalities that reminded boys and men of why they initially turned away from relationships would be less marketable. Thus, they have responded by creating female characters who actively do not exhibit hypergamy and likely lack it altogether. One popular example comes from the all-girl cast archetype of series, such as Lucky Star, K-on!, and Nichijou, where the girls demonstrate no active interest to make their male peers invested in them in spite of their physical appeal. Instead, they focus on their interests which often can (metaphysically) coincide with the interests of males: playing video games, watching anime, and listening to and/or playing more masculine music (like hard rock). They do this while still having femininity, effectively making them attractive on a multi-faceted level. This is quite applicable to series with romance, like Clannad After Story, and those where it does not exist or is at best an undertone, like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
This phenomenon has also become more gender-neutral to appeal to women, especially those who have not been fond of the romantic paradigm between men and themselves, who can discover anime and games that cater to them in this manner. Take for example the series Yuri on Ice or the romance, dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend.
Even still, there is a potential for male viewers to experience what it’s like to be hypergamous by viewing or playing as female characters with higher status than themselves in the form of the social variety (the ojou-sama archetype prevalent in the ecchi Ladies vs. Butlers) and/or physical dominance (the beautiful fighting girl archetype in Ikkitousen, Senran Kagura, and Hyperdimension Neptunia).
The international popularity of these characters series and anime as a whole demonstrates that this does work and has been successful. As to my earlier remark, it is because of our biology, particularly that of our primitive brains, which allow this to work. In the case of millions of people, it is a benefit that at a deep level the brain is able to separate fiction from reality in the realization that this is all harmless grandeur and that the brain is unable to separate fiction from reality in the realization that our primitive selves are capable of noticing the difference or at least not caring.