The next time you enjoy your huge anime DVD collection, spare a thought for the pioneers of anime fandom stateside, who started out with next to nothing. A photo-essay over at Fanboy.com shows a meeting of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization (CFO) which met in the basement of a Polish Democratic Club on St. Mark's Place in New York.

During those subterranean meetings, VHS marathons would show on a single smallish color TV screen. Fans bought precious (untranslated) manga books at Japanese bookstores, and bought and sold model kits. As for those anime videos themselves — those were VHS copies, endlessly duplicated from the one copy that a friend of a friend in Japan had sent over. Nobody could actually buy decent copies of anime on VHS.

As the photo-essay says, anime fandom might not have taken off in the U.S., the way it has, if it wasn't for these pioneering fans spreading the word. Here are a few more pics — check out more at the link. [Fanboy.com]