REVIEW: 8539 Manas

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Making this review brings back the days of when I was a completely obsessed Bionicle fanboy. :laugh: Although I may not be nearly as interested in Bionicle as I used to be, I do still have a liking for the great storyline the theme offered as well as the pieces that were always a challenge to work with in a MOC. Set 8539 Manas was part of the very first wave of Bionicle sets released back in 2001, and in my opinion one of the coolest sets ever released in Bionicle history. Without further delay, let us take a trip down memory lane and see what the first Bionicle sets were like.


Name: 8539 Manas

Theme: Bionicle/Rahi

Year: 2001

Pieces: 457

Minifigs: 0

Price: USD 89.99, GBP 69.99

Further Reference: Brickset.com, Bricklink.com, Peeron.com, flickr, Biosector01 Wiki (storyline information)

The Box: Front


Credit goes to Bricklink for the box picture. One interesting difference that many Bionicle boxes and canisters had was that the LEGO logo was not prominently displayed in the upper left corner, as opposed to the packaging for System sets. Instead, the logo is placed on the bottom right with the Technic logo next to it. The Technic logo would later be removed from Bionicle sets from 2002 to the end of the theme, when Bionicle was no longer a branch off of the Technic theme.

With regards to the box art, it's nostalgic! I love the barren, untarnished desert landscape. It's not too busy, and it almost teases the casual viewer with the vast world there is to explore in Bionicle. Also showcased are the electronic remote control features of the set, which will most certainly be covered later in the review.

The Instructions: Front



There are two booklets for each crab, and for once they differ from the box design. The booklet with the white and orange Manas creature is double the thickness of the other instruction booklet, as it contains the instructions for the combiner model for the set (which will also be seen in the review later on). Separating the instructions into two booklets for each creature was a great idea, since two people can easily build the set together without getting into arguments over who builds what.

The Instructions: First Page


The instructions feature a desert background similar to the one on the box, and piece call-outs. In addition, there is a little inset that serves as a reference for Technic axle lengths. Experienced builders can probably tell by sight alone how long an axle is, but the little inset is quite useful to those who may not be so acquainted with the different axle lengths.

The Instructions: Mask List


Followers of the storyline will know these masks as 'Kanohi' masks. For anyone who may not be aware of what these are, the Bionicle theme early on in its life had released randomized mask packs as collectibles. Each pack would have two masks in them, and the 'objective' was to collect all of the masks - 72 of them. The collectability aspect of Bionicle was indeed a neat way to kick off the line and made for a cool little impulse purchase.

The Instructions: Back Covers


One of the instruction booklets has a listing of the main 2001 Bionicle sets and a few Technic sets. Another advertisement is for a computer game called "BIONICLE: The Legend of Mata Nui," however that game was canceled and never sold on the market. The other booklet has a back cover devoted to several CGI images and general storyline information.

The Pieces


I should note that even though this is classified as a Bionicle set, there are very few actual Bionicle pieces. The vast majority of this set contains generic Technic pieces.


There also isn't too much color variation. Most of the pieces are either black, white, or a shade of old grey (before the 2004 color change).


Basically, you get a nice mix of everything - beams, connectors, pins, bushes, and gears. It's great to see so few specialized pieces, and knowing that this set will have some neat mechanical functions when built.


Here we get some different pieces. Four cool masks which are exclusive to this set in yellow and orange, some hooks, as well as treads. There's even a few System pieces tossed in! :thumbup:


Last but not least, the motors and remotes. The motors seem too bulky and cumbersome to use in a MOC, but they are controlled via remote controls. Both the motors and the remote controls can be set to three different radio frequency channels.

Furthermore, although they are not included in the set, a total of twelve AA batteries are necessary for the electrical components.

Notable Pieces


A small handful of the pieces are colored in rare colors or colors that are exclusive to this set. Twelve old dark gray tread hubs can be found here, and they are only found elsewhere in the UCS Rebel Snowspeeder. Four treads are included to go along with the hubs, so this set is a nice source for them. Another thing to note would be the black and white Technic panels, which aren't too common these days for some reason (but still make for nice finishing touches on Technic creations). Next up we have the masks - if you're into the storyline, the yellow mask is called the "Komau" and the orange mask is called the "Ruru." Four dark gray Bionicle head pieces are present for the masks to attach to. Moving right along, we have several hook pieces in orange, yellow, and white, all cool to have and great to use in creations. Finally, there are also elliptical liftarms in both orange and yellow. In short there are a number of Technic and Bionicle pieces here in neat and uncommon colors.

The Build

We'll start with the black and yellow Manas:


The build starts off with one of its treads. Notice how the 16 teeth gear fits in snugly with one of the tread hubs, so a motor can be attached to it and power the treads - great interconnectivity right there.


Now the tread is attached to an otherwise bare looking motor. Even so, you already get a feel for the overall shape of the final model this early on. Here, the instructions prompt you to insert 3 AA batteries into the motor.


The other tread is simply a mirror of the first one.


With both treads attached, now the instructions prompt you to insert 3 AA batteries in the remote. and to test out the motor. I'll go over the controls later, but they are quite simple.


The build starts to get a bit more exciting and different from here on out. Some of the front features and rear mechanisms are installed into place.


Next, the arms are attached. It's fun building all the mechanical features of this set, so this is a build that I think some Technic fans may even enjoy. The arms function somewhat like a crankshaft, and they're pretty strong when the motor is in action.


Once the outer 'shell' and masks are added, the Manas crab is complete and ready for action.

And now it's onto the white and orange Manas. Since the build is pretty similar to the build for the black and yellow Manas, I'll just post links to each picture to save image space:

Left Tread Left Tread 2


Right Tread Right Tread 2

Body 2 Remote

Body 3 Body 4

Body 5 Body 6


And here's the other Manas crab in the duo. Overall, the build really doesn't take that long for each creature. It is also repetitive since you have to more or less build two of the same thing. It's a great set to work on with someone else, but if you're building alone it can get tedious.

Extra Pieces


The extra pieces consist of some extra rubber bands, 1x1 round plates, bushes, and half pins.

The Design

The Set


Both crabs are ready and braced for battle - "Let's get ready to rumble!

Since they look very alike to each other, I'll simply do a side by side comparison of the crabs:


The round eyes don't strike me as intimidating one bit, which comes at a rather weighty detriment to the overall persona to the set - considering these are supposed to be, to quote Bioniclesector01, "savage" and "aggressive."


As you can see, the arms are controlled with a simple set of gears which punch forward at a quick speed when the motor is running. Also visible is the radio signal receiver.



The side profile does exceptionally well in showing off the crabs' bulky and heavy build. It's cool being able to see all the mechanics from this angle.


One of the few sets that literally use gear teeth as...teeth. The fangs are a cool little detail, even though there is no play function associated with them. The main attraction is the masks - punching them will cause the liftarm they are attached to to push the teeth down, rendering the Manas immobile.


Which you can see for yourself here.



Close up of the gear and arm mechanisms.


Basic Controls

The controls are pretty self-explanatory. A lot of button mashing tends to go on in the heat of battle :blush:

Essentially the goal is to knock off the other player's masks and/or cause the teeth to be knocked down to make the crab unable to move.

Alternate Build


Bionicle sets back in the day always had these neat combiner models you could build in the back of each instruction booklet. Typically you would need to get multiple sets to build one large model out of everything, but this particular Rahi series only required the pieces from both of the creatures included in each set. In the storyline, this is called a "Mana Ko."


I really like the two tiered construction of this. Using both motors and building off of each maximizes the playing capabilities of this combiner.



The upper part of the model is set at an angle for stability, but it's also a clever design.


Both motors can be set at the same frequency to control the treads and the arms simultaneously.


Given the limited amount of pieces, this is a great head for a combiner model. The masks are ingeniously used as insect-like eyes and the heads make for a great snout, giving the head a very animal-like appearance. My only complaint would be that it tends to bobble around a lot when the model is in motion, but this can be remedied by reinforcing it with additional rubber bands.


The claws come at somewhat of a disappointment, but I suppose there wasn't much the designers could do with them anyway. Much like the head, the claws need to be reinforced with small rubber bands in order to stay open and shut.


to see a video of the Mana Ko in action.

I probably didn't add enough rubber bands at the time, but this clearly exemplifies how flimsy the head and claws can be. Regardless, it still looks great in action.


I was lucky enough to get this set at more than 50% discount and even luckier to be able to find it in stores 3 years after its initial release. It is one of my favorite Bionicle sets and still mighty fun to play with even to this day. How much of a legacy will this set have on Bionicle history?

Pieces: 6/10 - Apart from the Bionicle pieces, treads, and motors, everything else is rather common in the Technic genre. I suppose this is a good thing however, since you won't find many of the more specialized pieces that Bionicle was known (even notoriously) for.

Build: 7/10 - The building experience depends, really. From my viewpoint, it can get redundant having to build two more or less identical models in one set on your own. But, it is one of those sets that two kids can work on without fighting over who does what. Despite the redundancy, it's still neat building the mechanical portions of this set.

Design: 8/10 - Overall, this is a solid set well built for stability during play. The eyes are perhaps the only glaring flaw as they don't really convey that menacing look. One thing I am fond of is how the mechanisms are simple enough to get the job done, but are subtly located on the back and aren't obtrusive to the design of the model. That's a major flaw that plagues many system sets, but in Technic and Bionicle sets they always fit right in seamlessly.

Playability: 8/10 - The primary (and frankly, only) play feature of this set revolves around the RC function. Motorized sets rank as among the best in terms of playability in view, but I think that can also be detrimental to a set if that's its only play function. The addition of the combiner model adds that much more playability to the set, though. In short, the RC battling feature will keep the kids occupied for a while, but having other Bionicle figures to go along with it can set the stage for make believe battles and whatnot.

Price: 7/10 - It has electrical components, and that's the only reason why the price rating didn't take that much of a hit. Ninety dollars is still rather high for about 450 pieces.

Overall: 7.2/10

All in all, the Manas is a set that strikes a balance between both Technic and Bionicle, and could even serve as a segue for younger kids into the more complex world of Technic. On the other hand, it's a great retro addition to any Bionicle collector. Nowadays this set is actually uncommon - at the time of this posting there are less than 10 lots available on Bricklink, most of them over the MSRP. There are a few flaws, but none of them overwhelmingly degrading to the set. To conclude, I love Bionicle fauna. I also love crabs. :wub: This set gets a :thumbup:

Thanks for reading :classic:

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Great review. My brother and I got the Manas in 2001, and didn't get Muaka and Kane-Ra until Brickfair years later. I think I'd have been much happier to have gotten Muaka and Kane-Ra sooner-- even when I finally got the set, when I was well into my teens, I still enjoyed "fighting" with the two models more and longer than I had enjoyed fighting with the Manas. Additionally, the Manas doesn't have nearly as many useful pieces, at least for the sorts of MOCs I made at the time. Their function wasn't too impressive, either, unlike Muaka and Kane-Ra's heads that extend and jaws that snap shut. Overall, for their price they weren't the best set I could have gotten, and some of the other Rahi sets might have been a much better investment.

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Great review! Unfortunately, this set was way out of my budget, but it looks like a very fun set, and the aim of the game is great. I love how Bionicle had battling animals in the early stages.

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Thank you very much for doing this solid review. I've only seen pictures of these early Bionicle sets, and had no idea how much they contained, or that they even had motors.

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Thank you very much for doing this solid review. I've only seen pictures of these early Bionicle sets, and had no idea how much they contained, or that they even had motors.

This was the only motorized one-- in fact, the remote-control function was its main selling point. Other Rahi sets typically were ones you held in your hand, squeezing or pressing a part of the set to operate the action features. The idea was always the same, though: there were two beasts in each set, and their action features would be used by two people to make the creatures fight. The first person to knock off all of the opponents' masks was the winner.

You could also make the creatures fight the smaller sets like Toa and Turaga, since those also had action features that could be used for combat. However, the match was far less even-handed. :tongue:

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