Review: Official Set 8538 - Muaka & Kane-Ra

  • by Christian Dvorak

And I thought the Tarakava meant business. Muaka & Kane-Ra, the next entry to our series of Bionicle reviews, absolutely shatter the other Rahi so far. This set features two base models depicting a tiger-like and buffalo-like Rahi on the island of Mata Nui.  

Muaka & Kane-Ra have certainly bumped up the recommended age here with a 9+ rating, whereas previous Rahi have been labeled as ages 8+. This set contains a whopping 647 pieces, which at the time was by far the largest Bionicle set, and after the theme was all said and done it still ranks as the 4th largest the theme would come to produce.



The box matches the Po-Wahi/Po-Koro design of the other Rahi (other than the Nui-Rama), which at least matches environments we could see them in though. Again, it would have been better if the background was a different region. The Toa all got their own background renders so why not use similar ones for the Rahi? The big highlight on the packaging is the highlight of the infected Hau mask on the front of the box. It’s nice to see that LEGO® decided to throw a bone to one of the larger sets from 2001.

The contents of this box are essentially identical to what we got with the Tarakava. There’s a cardboard insert which holds all of the contents: 4 bags, two for each of the models, two instruction manuals, advertisement material, and two unbagged rubber treads.


The Build

Without a doubt the high piece count for this set made the build much longer than previous sets, but after just an hour and 20 minutes I finished both Muaka and Kane-Ra. The models were definitely more challenging that I had thought, especially when trying to align everything properly in the neck. That being said I had a really great time doing the builds. The two beasts are very similar, only differing in small detail areas such as the ears and arm designs. But I still had a great time with the build, it flew by. The result is two menacing creatures that on looks alone look like the Toa would have their work cut out for them.

This set’s base models feature what I believe to be the best play function of the 2001 wave. By pressing down on the body, which acts as a large lever and handle, the neck launches forward, opening the teeth for a large chomp once the neck is fully extended. It’s truly remarkable what the designers did with these models, and it should have been a clear indication that this theme had an unbelievable amount of potential.

The masks are assembled on rods that keep the arms in place. When attacking against each other, pulling out that rod causes the arms to fall off, essentially disabling the Rahi. This is definitely interesting, but I don’t understand why this is necessary for the arms to fall out. In my opinion it should have been limited to only knocking the masks off.


Combination Model

The combination model for this set is the Kuma-Nui, a rat-like Rahi that would roam around the Ko-Wahi regions. The Kuma-Nui is a visually striking model as well as a good play model. I pity the group of Ko-Koro patrollers who run into this beast because they’re flat out done for. The model looks incredibly thick and muscular, and features upgraded arms as well as a longer neck. The handle is also thicker for the Kuna-Nui, which makes controlling this larger combination much easier.

The tail on this model is a bit long for my liking, but this is only a minor complaint. The only real issue I have with the Kuma-Nui is that the head is exactly the same as Muaka’s. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have changed it up even a little bit, maybe give it some more teeth or a thicker face.



Muaka & Kane-Ra really impressed me as a set. The function is almost mind-blowing how well it functions, and they both are very unique additions to the world of Bionicle. There’s a ton of neat building techniques in this model as well, and yes of course, the exclusive infected Hau mask is a can’t miss opportunity.

If you’re interested in purchasing this set, the good news is that you don’t need to even consider buying it new. Used this set will set you back around $80, but new/sealed it currently goes for upwards of $200. There is no reason at all to spend over $200 on a brand-new copy of this set unless you are trying to save it for the years to come or give a really special gift to a Bionicle fan.

When it’s all said and done for reviewing the entire Bionicle line, I’m sure this set will still stick out as one of the top-tier sets.


SCORE: 8.5/10


Tagged with: Official Set Review

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  • Nathan,

    Make sure that all of the parts, especially the dark gray ones, are oriented and attached the right way according to the instructions. I had this issue too once before and that was my problem. Hope this helps!

    All-Out Brick on
  • I’m not sure if you could help on this one, but I just got this set myself, and for whatever reason my Muaka arms won’t stay in, they just slide out, even with the rods in. Any ideas what could be wrong??

    Nathan on

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