Yeah, Japan authors have no real clue what the western fans actually like and what characters are popular. A good example is the one you listed, Sakura. I think a better one would be the naruto games. They came out way too frequently without the proper content.
>Ecchi never appealed to me really, it's just too boring.
>Yaoi....do what you want. It's the equivalent of ecchi-for-women though in most cases.
>God I can't remember the last time an anime actually intrigued me with a story.
>Animators wise it's not that there isn't any, it's that they take lazy routes with CGI.
>Good characters.....yeah, i'll agree there. Outside of Monogatari I've been looking for some decent character shows.
Let me explain modern anime popularity in simple terms.(3 types).
1. Otaku bait. Moe and loli shit or ecchi stuff.(Doesn't matter if it's been done before, originality doesn't matter).
Examples: K-ON! and Highschool DxD.
2. Braindead Shonen. Literally any 10-12 year olds wet dream.(Doesn't matter if it's been done before, originality doesn't matter).
Examples: Boku no Hero Academia, Akame ga Kill, SAO.
3. HYPED AS FUCK
Example: SnK, Fate/Night, SAO.
Series that are worthwhile and pretty good in their own right don't have huge sales. They never have past 2000.
This is in part because shonen(naruto/bleach/onepiece) took over most of the teeenage audience so right now most of the audience is still shonen remnants(who only watch hyped shows) or teenagers who don't really want a deeper or intelligent show and are going to be watching naruto-esque shows.
Also the ecchi/moe audience doesn't really care. They just want softcore porn.