The second version of Leader-1 saw Tonka hit on that old toyline standby to save money - recolours! The original toy had been on the shelves for a year, and was shoved into Tonka's patented Make Things Colourful™ machine (along with Cy-Kill, Crasher, Blaster and BuggyMan).

They joined the line in late 1984, theoretically replacing the plain grey version in the range - though in practice, they ended up being sold alongside a fair bit, including both being reissued with stickers for the third series of figures. Indeed, the blue version just ended up being bunged on the same card as the original in Europe. My pet theory is that unsold recoloured Leader-1 figures were shipped over to Europe, and Bandai didn't bother updating the card. Leader-1's new clothes came too late to get on the telly, or in anything else. As with the rest of Tonka's modifications, this one didn't get to Japan. The Japanese get all the luck with toys.


ALTERNATE MODE

This is one of those schemes I don't like, and I'm not really sure why. After all, one of my biggest complaints about the original version is that it's boring, an unmemorable little grey jet. What would I prefer? God only knows , though chrome might have worked. Not this, though - the majority of Leader-1 is now a deep blue. While that's nicer than grey, it's still dull. Thankfully, Tonka haven't relied on just the blue, and we have a pretty arbitrary rectangle of white behind the cockpit. Well, to be fair, it isn't arbitrary, it's the robot mode chest, but it serves no logical purpose on the jet mode. Factor in the comical stickers and the overall impression is of an aircraft that's escaped from a circus. The realism is sacrificed, and unlike some of the better recolours (such as Crasher or Twin Spin) we don't get anything tasty in return.

However, it must be said this version doesn't discolour quite so easily (the white is painted diecast), and if anything the plastic quality is actually better than the original - the undercarriage and wings don't seem as pliable. It's a bit odd that the quality feels so good, and yet it looks so much like a knockoff that'd be found in a discount store with a name like Robot Machine Fighter on the card.


ROBOT MODE

The colours hold up a lot better in robot mode. The white parts have a purpose, at least. However, he's still not great, and he still really doesn't look like Leader-1. The character might be a bit of a paper tiger, but at least the original toy did manage a sort of stoic dignity.

This makeover isn't really the answer to the figure's problems. In fact, having the head a different colour to the plates on his shoulders, and indeed the rest of the chest, really emphasises how tiny the head piece actually is. It still lacks character, only this time it doesn't even look like the lazy two-dimensional heroic cipher seen on TV. The casting itself is still distinctly average, with the limbs oversized, awful long shoulder connectors and dodgy foot layout.


SUMMARY

Leader-1's new look is probably the worst of the Tonka recolours, just about seeing off the competition of Blaster. Don't get me wrong, on absolute term, this is the better figure, but with Blaster you're between a rock and a hard place, whereas whatever the faults of the grey Leader-1 figure, it's hard to see anyone choosing this one over the original. It looks like a bootleg, and is very much for completists only. The recolour version is pretty cheap to pick up, but then you're unlikely to break the bank getting the original so you really might as well fork out the extra couple of quid for that one.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-25: Eagle Robo
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-25: Eagle Robo (white recolour)
1983, Robo Machine - RM-25: F-15 Eagle
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 25: Leader-1
1984, Gobots Series 2 - 25: Leader-1 (reissue with sticker)
1985, Gobots Guardian Gift Pack #1 - Leader-1 (packed with Flip-Top and Turbo)
1985, Gobots Series 3 - 44: Leader-1 (blue recolour)
1985, Robo Machine - RM-25: F-15 Eagle (reissue using blue recolour)

1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRJ-7: Eagle Robo
1993, Robo Machines - F-15

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Arms, wings, nose