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Leader-1 Tonka, ca. 1985

Leader-1 Review Capsule
An transforming jet from Go-bots with a fair amount of articulation for its time, but it got the short end of the nostalgia stick. For retro fans only.

Introduction

The leader of the heroic Guardians in the world of Go-Bots was Leader-1, a character colored like Megatron of TransFormers fame but an interesting toy in his own right. Eventually the USA distributor of Go-Bots gobbled up Kenner, and then Hasbro gobbled up Tonka, and in 2001, a Leader-1 toy came out under TransFormers: Armada. But for now, here's the original.

He was available in two sizes, and in the small size, he was also available with blue parts. This version is true to the animated series and the orignal Japanese release. For the modeling fan in all of us, a model kit was also released that transforms, appears to be quite posable, and looks absolutely nothing like the character from the series.

The original toy was part of a Japanese BanDai toy line called Machine Robo and this toy has, along with its copyright markings, a designation of MR-25 because for whatever reason Japanese toymakers tend to label their robot toys as such, although it's usually on the packaging only. And yes, there is a new series of Machine Robo toys on the market today... but only in Japan.

Jet Mode

In 1984, Hasbro established with its TransFormers brand that jets were evil. So, in 1985, it was quite interesting and logical to see that Tonka decided to break from that conventional toy wisdom and make a motorcycle its lead villain, with a jet as the number one hero. The jet itself looks pretty great, and it has a sense of realism that you don't always get from other modern transforming toys.

It's a jet. As such, it has no action features except for some rolling wheels for its landing gear, which is nice to see on a toy of this size. Modern TransFormers of a similar size rarely have wheels for landing gear, so for people looking for examples of the good old days of toys, this is one of them.

Robot

The transformation is neither involved nor complicated, but there's a lot of twists and turns to make it interesting and fun for all active participants.

Pull down the legs, fold the wings accordingly, push down the nosecone, pull out the arms... and you're done.

As this toy was from before the days of inane safety regulations, there's a pointy hard plastic nosecone and die-cast metal pieces, but surprisingly, there's no weapons of any kind. As such, it's a little boring.

The head really doesn't give it much in the way of personality, as it just looks like a bland face mask. The goggle-like eyes and helmet-like head seem to recall a helmet that we might see on a jet fighter pilot, and the face mask looks like that of a poor man's Darth Vader.

Articulation is limited, but better than you might expect. The legs are fixed, as is the head, but there are joints on the shoulders that allow for a wide range of movement. If you're in the market for a figure that can hold things up, this might be the one for you.

Packaging

Leader-1 originally was packaged on a blister card when it came from Tonka Toys in the USA in 1985. The Japanese version came in a small box. As our sample has been part of the collection for years, the packaging is most likely in a landfill somewhere.

Comparisons

As mentioned above, Hasbro owns the names to the entire Go-Bots range now, supposedly. As such, they're flexing a little muscle and released Leader-1 as a Mini-Con in TransFormers Armada in 2001.

As you can see, there's a very slight resemblance, but the emphasis here is "slight." Supposedly Hasbro decided to use the name because this character was packaged with the leader of the Armada villains, and they thought it would be funny to have the captured Leader-1 think that he was the one in charge. Of course, this never really came to pass in the storylines for Armada so now it's just a footnote in plastic history.

Fin

Why would you want this? Odds are you wouldn't. Fans haven't called for a return to GoBotron and Hasbro has its own line of Go-Bots out today that are little more than TransFormers for little kids. Sure, they're colorful and fun, but ultimately just a hollow shell of their namesakes. Without the likes of Hot Topic or ToyFare calling for a return, odds are these will just be remembered as a very brief roadblock to the success of TransFormers.

If you've got a yen for cheap robot toys, you should look this up. Go-Bots aren't exactly collector magnets, and Leader-1 is a poor substitute for Optimus Prime. As such, he should be able to be had fairly cheaply. At least for now.

Reviewed and photographed by Adam Pawlus
Sample purchased some time in 1985-1986
Reviewed on October 28, 2003.

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