It is impossible to research 3D anime style without learning about Hatsune Miku. This is what I discovered two years ago when I first started to learn about Blender and 3D toon styles. The reason is a program called MikuMikuDance (MMD.) It's a freeware program that was put out to let fans make music videos for Miku and other Vocaloids. MMD spawned a massive community that has produced a huge volume of models. I've learned a lot from studying them, and I couldn't help but learn more about the characters and Vocaloid phenomenon overall. I decided early on that once I got better, I needed to try making Miku myself. Now that I've been at this for two years, that time has finally come.
The other major influence that I've drawn on is, of course, Final Fantasy. While not a true anime style, Final Fantasy has its roots in it, especially in the earlier games. But it has evolved in its own direction. MMD uses anime style proportions with small bodies, long legs, large heads, massive eyes, and low detail faces. Final Fantasy is more realistic, but is still idealized towards large eyes, small mouths, and long limbs. But the largest difference is the shading. Anime uses two or three tones with hard edged shadows and highlights. Final Fantasy uses realistic shading without hard edges. Anime has edge lines, Final Fantasy does not.
The style I've been developing is a mix of the two. I'm using Final Fantasy inspired body and facial proportions with anime style hair, shading, and edge lining. The shader gives hard edged shadows and highlights, but also allows more nuanced shading. The final style is similar to lots of digital painting you can find on Pixiv and DeviantArt (and in future projects, will probably be even closer.)
The workflow and technical details are similar to my previous Project Maiko, except that I am now using Marvelous Designer to create outfits and simulate cloth, and Substance Painter for texture painting.
I'm the visual artist half of the Root Node music project. This image is the cover art for our first Vocaloid track: