Anatomically speaking Europeans don't look like that either. But most of the people look more European than Japanese, at least it seems to me ... Maybe it's the round eyes? And the non-black hair in some cases?
Just like Senshin stated in his comment. For the Japanese people their characters do look Asian.
There is a really nice atricle writen about this on thesocietypages And as stated there
In your question you also said "Maybe it's the round eyes? And the non-black hair in some cases?"
The society pages also pointed out something about that
"The Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white."*
Off course there are also exceptions a nice sample is indeed Dan Eagleman as stated by Senshin. The moment they need the feel to make somebody look non-Japanese they will try to design the user more to the american/european stereotype. Aka - Bigger noses - Blond hair/blue eyes/white - Speaks Fluent english
I'm Chinese, but I see white people when I watch anime too. It is incredibly obvious actually:
White skin as opposed to Japanese toned. Round eyes as opposed to Japanese shaped, blonde/red/brown hair as opposed to black, and Caucasian face shape as opposed to Asian shaped.
Even though I grew up in Canada, I still don't think "white" is the default human to me. I don't believe Japanese see Japanese people either, unless the character is Tenchi or one of his friends or something.
I disagree that anime are portraying causcasian/european, because they're portraying Japanese obviously if they have Japanese names... therefore I agree with Senshin, and Dimitri mx
If you look at the Japanese subcultures, they like to dye their hair in different colors to defy the norm, which are largely dark hair, not trying to look caucasian. I hear people claim that anime looks caucasian/europe makes me sad, as it shows how limited their world view is... Not all Asian has small squinty eyes, I've known a lot of friends who has round and big eyes, there are even more if you go to Asian countries. It's like saying those Causcasians who like to tan their skin are trying to be African American, or those who like to dance hip hop or rap are trying to be African American, but are they? Maybe some of them are, but most of them tan their skin because they think it looks nice with their overall eyes and hair, just like Asian/Japanese dye their hair because they think it looks nice with their complexion, and that is reflected in anime with different hair colors etc.
Um, sorry but they don't look european to me...
Their facial structure looks Asian, and their hairstyles are more in the tyle of Asian fashions (well, most Asian can pull it off since they tend to have younger looking faces). Their hair color comes in all ranges so that doesn't count.
When anime portrays Westerners, they tend to have bigger jaws (which is true) and you can distinctly see their nose is bigger/higher. (Look at Monsters for example: those Germans look like Westerners to me, while Tenma certainly looks Japanese.)
To be honest, in most animated Western movies, characters don't look like the average American to me; rather, it's their mannerisms that makes them look American. I was watching Tangled and I noticed that her eyes are very big, to the point where no one can have eyes that big, but minus the big eyes and her mannerisms, yes she come across as western to me.
That applies to most anime, their eyes are impossibly big for a human being, but minus their non-human eyes, I see lots of Asian features in there, and their mannerism makes it more obvious. Take Final Fantasy for example, Advent Children, most character like Cloud (minus blue eye and blond hair) looks like Gackt to me, who is Japanese. And Tifa looks very Japanese. the first time I ever saw a Final Fantasy 7 Crisis Core/Advent Children cut scene, I thought they look very Japanese/anime aesthetic, and I haven't watched much anime at the time as well. You can argue that they look Eurasian more than pure European.
And anime looks out of this world, but with some Asianic aesthetic. That's my conclusion. So i disagree; they don't look European. They look Japanese and I accept it as that.
I agree that in Aku no Hana they actually do look Japanese. Let's face it, we all know that Japanese, Chinese, and Korean have small, almost squinty eyes. White people don't necessarily have big eyes either, but they're bigger than the ones a typical Asian would have. Some say that the Japanese are trying to take over the world by drawing their characters as Caucasians. I have noticed that in animes the major characters are always white. It's very rare to even have an African character pop up every now and then as a on the side character, but that's about the most culture variation you'll see.
Religion doesn't pop up either in animes, with the exception of the monks, and statues of Buddha that appear(only Japanese culture is allowed in JAPANESE anime and manga of course). And my point on religion and the appearances of the characters is that not every one has the same way of life or is comfortable wearing mini skirts. In a lot of religions they're not allowed to do some of those things that people on animes do. Like dating, flirting, going all the way before marriage, or even as a girl showing your thighs to another girl is not allowed. So, in the anime world every one is actually the same, even though the main character is usually some what different from the others, but in a way that we can't relate to because it's usually impossible IRL. Like in the anime series Naruto, he (Naruto) starts out as an out cast because of the fox demon sealed inside him. Therefore, treated differently by his peers in a negative way.
The thing about hair colour, well, Asians almost always have black hair. On the other hand, Europeans are more often found with hair that is red. But, I read that that it is possible for Asian and African people to inherit the two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16 which causes a mutation in the MC1R protein(causes red hair). Considering the facts, most red heads have European genes, which is why people on animes that have red hair or even blond hair with blue eyes AND white skin, look like white people. But when characters have randomly crazy, awesome and impossible IRL hair colours like BLUE, GREEN, PURPLE, PINK, TURQUOISE, etc. you know it's just part of the illustrators' design.