In 1946, an unprecedented discovery was made - a small population of dinosaurs that had survived the Cretaceous extinction and were still living on remote Barakan Island. Through a careful long-term breeding program, humanity helped these dinosaurs thrive once again, making them populous enough for specimens to be exported overseas for zoos and theme parks worldwide. And then in 1987, the late Dr. Suma Ichirou made immense breakthroughs in genetics that allowed for the resurrection of extinct species, including (naturally) more dinosaurs. Soon, the world was swept up in a storm of "dinomania".
But in 2006, everything changed after a horrific incident at a small dinosaur reserve in Japan known as Enoshima Dinoland. Public interest in dinosaurs became virtually extinct almost immediately as a result of the tragedy. Dinosaur zoos quickly fell on hard times, being unable to generate the same levels of visitors and revenue as they did in the past.
Enter Suma Suzume, the 24-year-old daughter of Dr. Suma Ichirou. She has just started working as a zookeeper at Enoshima Dinoland, 15 years after the terrible accident that occurred there. Determined, optimistic, and passionate, Suzume hopes to reinvigorate public interest in dinosaurs. But with Dinoland having been struggling for so long with insufficient staff and funding to take care of its 72 individual dinosaurs (plus pterosaurs and marine reptiles), Suzume will have a lot of work cut out for her.
Dinosaur Sanctuary is a manga series written and illustrated by Itaru Kinoshita that debuted in 2021 in Monthly Comic Bunch. While the premise of a dinosaur zoo doubtlessly brings to mind a certain Hollywood blockbuster franchise, Dinosaur Sanctuary is a Slice of Life piece that focuses on the day-to-day events at the zoo through its protagonist's perspective. As a result, it's less about science gone wrong and the consequences of meddling with nature, and more about the everyday struggles and victories that zookeepers experience while taking care of animals.
The series is also notable for its hard aversion of Artistic License – Paleontology. All the dinosaurs you expect to have feathers are as fluffy as they should be, and an actual paleontologist, Dr. Shin-ichi Fujiwara, was consulted by Kinoshita for information on depicting the dinosaurs with the correct behaviours and anatomy, and each chapter is accompanied with a detailed scientific explanation justifying how the dinosaurs are portrayed in the story. Likewise, the dinosaurs are also anything but Prehistoric Monsters, and their interactions with their handlers are not too different from what real-life zookeepers deal with when it comes to modern animals.
The first few chapters have already been released as volumes, and they've been published in English too, thanks to Seven Seas Entertainment.
- All Animals Are Dogs: The second volume heavily deconstructs this trope, showing that while dinosaurs are not monsters, they are still wild animals that are often dangerous, and should not be treated like a pet dog or cat. Yamaga was killed by the Allosaurus he had cared for for fifteen years because he believed she had bonded with him, but when frightened by an unexpected event, she lashed out unpredictably as a wild animal does, mauled him to death, and almost escaped. Suzume later acts as a surrogate parent for a baby Troodon but finds even caring for a small hatchling is really tough because of how wily, energetic, and destructive it is.
- Alliterative Name: There's Suzume Suma and Karin Kirishima.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Benkei the Troodon. His egg hatched later than his siblings’, and he’s the smallest of them. He’s shown as highly intelligent by his own species’ standards, but he gets mercilessly bullied by his siblings and his parents do nothing to stop it. Even after he shows his siblings how a puzzle box works and gets them food, they won’t stop picking on him. He’s eventually relocated to the park’s lab, partly for his own safety.
- Alternate-History Dinosaur Survival: In this world, a population of non-avian dinosaurs managed to survive the K-Pg Extinction Event on an island, and in 1946, they were discovered by humans who helped their populations grow through breeding programs.
- Animal Lover: Suzume loves dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, with her main goal being to bridge the gap between them and humans.
- Artistic License – Animal Care: Dinoland is apparently struggling to keep up with its bills so much that hiring even one more employee risks pushing them into bankruptcy, but it has at least eleven elephant-sized (or larger) animals (several of which are carnivores, which are far more expensive to feed than herbivores) and relatively few small ones. Realistically, it would be a massive drain for a small zoo to keep so many huge animals rather than downsizing to smaller species. Although it could be argued that non-avian dinosaurs would be less expensive to keep than birds and mammals, due to being mesothermic and thus requiring less food, but a small zoo being able to keep several of the larger ones would still be a bit of a stretch.
- Artistic License – Paleontology: Mostly averted. The dinosaurs are generally extremely accurate as to scientific thought in the 2020s regarding their appearance and behaviour, right down to the feathers on the ones you'd expect to have them. However, there are some minor things here and there.
- The Tyrannosaurus is depicted as having a full body coat of fluff. While this was commonly accepted in the mid-2010s, it fell out of favor following further research on fossil skin impressions of T. rex that suggest it was most likely predominantly scaly, with feathering, if any, being relegated to the back. However, this is fixed in later chapters, showing adult Tyrannosaurus as sparsely-feathered as they should.
- The name Troodon is used here with Enoshima's Niko and Vena, despite the name having been rendered scientifically dubious following an extensive re-examination of Troodon fossils reassigning the vast majority of material to Stenonychosaurus (which had been previously sunk into the Troodon genus in the 1980s).
- Troodon, although commendably portrayed as being thickly feathered, is depicted with half-formed proto-wings rather than the large bird-like wings it would've more likely have had. The Archaeopteryx seen in an Imagine Spot has the same issue.
- The Edmontosaurus that appears in an Imagine Spot in Chapter 11 is shown without the row of raised scales along its back, as we now know they would have had based on some exceptionally well-preserved specimens. It does seem to have a ridge along its back which suggests the scales are hidden underneath skin, based on a hypothesis that is now considered unlikely.
- Author Appeal: Author Itaru Kinoshita's favourite dinosaur is Giganotosaurus. Naturally, its the focus dinosaur of the first chapter and the first animal Suzume works with at Enoshima Dinoland.
- Birthday Episode: Chapter 11 involves the park celebrating the 36th birthday of Hanako the Tyrannosaurus.
- Boom, Headshot!: The security officers in the flashback to "the incident" take visitor safety very seriously; the moment it looks like a maddened Allosaurus might actually escape, they put a high-caliber bullet in her head.
- Career-Ending Injury: Masaru the Triceratops was once one of Japan's most popular captive dinosaurs, but he accidentally broke one of his horns. Although the injury was ultimately superficial, his popularity plummeted, leading him to be sold off to Dinoland and replaced by another Triceratops with fully intact horns.
- Cynicism Catalyst: At the time of the Ichigo incident, Kaidou appears to be much more chipper and energetic than he is currently. From his retelling of the event, it's obvious that it affected him deeply.
- Disaster Dominoes: The incident in 2006 where an Allosaurus almost escaped was only possible due to a number mistakes that added up. There was loud construction happening right outside Ichigo's enclosure which spooked her, Ichigo's keeper treated her like his personal pet rather than as a dangerous and predatory wild animal, Yamaga had failed to notice the door to the pen was unlatched and disregarded the mandated "buddy system" for zoo employees, and a construction worker opened the outer gate to the enclosure not knowing the Allosaurus had gone berserk and just busted through the inner gate.
- Domesticated Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs are kept as attractions at zoos and animal sanctuaries like Enoshima Dinoland.
- Driven to Suicide: Suzume's father, Dr. Suma Ichirou, killed himself following the 2006 Ichigo Incident, as the public uproar around what happened completely destroyed his reputation.
- Escaped Animal Rampage: The 2006 incident was one of these, with Enoshima's Allosaurus Ichigo, spooked by construction noises, killed her keeper and then injured herself in a panic, forcing the zoo to put her down. While no visitors were harmed in the incident, it shocked the world and stirred controversy, killing public interest in dinosaurs and even driving Suzume's father to suicide.
- Establishing Character Moment: In the first chapter, when Suzume arrives at the zoo, she comforts a group of schoolchildren scared by Enoshima Dinoland's Giganotosaurus by explaining how dinosaurs aren't all scary through pointing out that birds are also dinosaurs, establishing her primary characteristics - her passion for and knowledge in dinosaurs, her desire to help people understand and connect with dinosaurs better, and her general kind and helpful nature.
- Edutainment Show: There are notes from the manga's research consultant explaining some of the details in the story's portrayal of its dinosaurs, as are numerous placards in-universe showing real information about the dinosaurs.
- Extinct Animal Park: The eponymous Enoshima Dinoland is a small struggling zoo that hosts about two dozen species of dinosaurnote , ranging from small herbivores to giant carnivores. The series focuses on the day-to-day business of running the place, which is not too different from what real-life zoos deal with when it comes to their animals.
- Fictional Social Network: Chapter 7 shows one on Suzume's phone that bears a striking resemblance to Instagram, but its name is never shown.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Some of the dinosaurs have surprisingly cute-sounding names, like Yuki the Giganotosaurus, Hanako the Tyrannosaurus and Ichigo the Allosaurus. In this case it serves to convey their status as just animals, not monsters.
- Foreshadowing: In the first chapter, Kaidou complains how the zoo's old air conditioning units are old and in desperate need of repair. In the second chapter, he and Suzume find the zoo's male Troodon suffering some heat stroke because the exhibit's air conditioning failed.
- Fossil Revival: In the series' universe, scientists managed to achieve this in the 1980s, thanks to breakthroughs in genetic science. However, dinosaurs resurrected through this method are more vulnerable to sickness and require more care and medical attention than dinosaurs bred from the Barakan Island population.
- Friend to All Children: Suzume. In her Establishing Character Moment, she consoles some schoolchildren terrified by the zoo's Giganotosaurus and helps them gain a new perspective on dinosaurs, in contrast to the other zoo staff, who find themselves unsure what to do with the frightened kids.
- Gyaru Girl: Asami, the girl who takes a liking to Masaru the Triceratops, is of the yamanba fashion.
- Heartfelt Apology: Kaidou, feeling guilty for the suicide of Suzume's father, gives one to Suzume once he tells her of the infamous Ichigo incident. In a unique spin on the usual takes on these matters, she doesn't hold it against him in the least.
- In Spite of a Nail: Despite the fact, in this universe, living dinosaurs were discovered in the 1940s and a boom in real dinosaur zoos occurred in the late 1980s, apparently Jurassic Park still ended up being made (before the revival of Dilophosaurus, as an exhibit sign has a disclaimer that it did not have a frill or venom). Of course, in this universe, Michael Crichton could have wrote Jurassic Park because of said boom in dinosaur zoos, intending to address the consequences of resurrecting extinct speciesnote .
- Imprinting: When dinosaurs hatch, zookeepers have to pose as their respective species so the hatchlings can recognize their birth parents. However, Benkei the Troodon hatchling sees an un-costumed Suzume upon opening his eyes, so he imprints on her.
- Instant Sedation: Averted twice: first, Kaidou refuses to use a tranquilizer on a Troodon that needs to be restrained, because the animals can sometimes hurt themselves thrashing around before the tranquilizer kicks in. Later, Dr. Shiranui has to use a tranquilizer dart to get a much larger Dilophosaurus in for treatment, and several park workers are called in to suit up in protective gear to protect the animal so he doesn't do the same thing.
- Insufferable Genius: Shiranui. While he's incredibly competent in veterinary practice, he's also condescending, arrogant and mean-spirited.
- Kids Love Dinosaurs: The manga opens with a young Suzume enchanted with the dinosaur fossils at an exhibit. Beaming with happiness, she turns to her father and expresses her wish to grow up to become a dinosaur caretaker. Dinosaurs also prove popular with the groups of children who visit Enoshima Dinoland.
- Living Dinosaurs: The backstory states that a small population of surviving non-avian dinosaurs was discovered living on a remote island in 1946, and their populations were grown through captive breeding. However, in 1987, a scientist discovered a way to also revive long-extinct dinosaurs through genetic-engineering.
- Lost World: The premise of the manga is that a remote island ecosystem where dinosaurs survived until the modern day was discovered in 1946, preserving a small population of dinosaurs from extinction.
- Lower-Deck Episode: Chapter 10 follows a pair of student tourists enjoying a visit to the park, and only briefly features Suzume.
- My Greatest Failure: Kaidou is haunted by the death of both Ichigo the Allosaurus and the previous theropod keeper Yamaga, blaming himself for letting Ichigo kill Yamaga and then be killed in turn during her Escaped Animal Rampage. What's more he also considers himself responsible for the death of Dr. Suma Ichirou, who committed suicide out of despair for the public outcry against the incident.
- Nervous Wreck: Ichigo the Allosaurus. Loud noises often caused her to panic, and her exhibit being re-painted was enough to send her into a Sleep Deprivation-induced spiral of anxiety. It's telling that "The incident" was caused by a construction-project induced Freak Out.
- Noodle Incident: The 2006 incident that killed public interest in dinosaurs remains one of these for the first few chapters. It finally becomes resolved in Chapter 6.
- Plucky Girl: Suzume is a kind, cheerful, eager, and determined young woman who is very passionate about dinosaurs and hopes to get people interested in them again as more than just monsters. While her outlook is seen by some of her coworkers as naive, her attitude is also quite helpful for the zoo on occasion.
- Prehistoric Monster: Averted and addressed. While the dinosaurs in-universe are depicted as no more dangerous or monstrous than modern-day wild animals seen in real-life zoos are, it's made abundantly clear that dinosaurs in-universe are still seen as such by the general public, owing to the 2006 incident.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Benkei, the baby Troodon Suzume is temporarily charged with taking care of. Suzume can't help but be overwhelmed by how cute he is when she first sees him. However, it doesn't last, as Benkei proved quite the troublemaker.
- Road Apples: One of the first things Suzume is made to do as a zookeeper is to haul out the huge quantities of giant dinosaur poop (that is, giant poop of a giant dinosaur) with a wheelbarrow. She finds out later the zoo has a bucket loader for that and she had basically been subject to a newbie hazing.
- The informational signs outside the Dilophosaurus exhibit state that it does not spit poison or have a neck frill.
- Ichigo's attempted escape is similar to that of the Indominus rex, including getting caught in the closing doors. Except unlike the Indominus, Ichigo doesn't go much further.
- Show Within a Show: Dinoman, a TV series that stars a humanoid Triceratops and is being rebooted as a movie series. Suzume is a big fan of it.
- Shown Their Work: The author puts a lot of research into reconstructing the series' dinosaurs, right down to how the bone structure of the dinosaurs would have allowed them to sit down. Characters who are veteran Dino-keepers and Dino-doctors are constantly making observations about how their charges move, sit, and behave. Research consultant Shin-ichi Fujiwara is even listed as a co-author, and each chapter ends with Fujiwara's insight into the various details considered in depicting the dinosaurs of Enoshima Dinoland.
- Slice of Life: The series is pretty episodic overall, focusing primarily on the everyday activities the zookeepers engage in while caring for the dinosaurs, not unlike a behind-the-scenes zoo series.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: While the series doesn't indulge in Prehistoric Monsters and the usual tropes popularized by Jurassic Park on the idea of dinosaur zoos, it is made abundantly clear in Chapters 6 and 7, "The Ichigo Incident", that dinosaurs are still unpredictable wild animals that must be treated with caution. If Yamaga had followed proper safety cautions around the Allosaurus he had cared for over 15 years, then he would never have been killed by Ichigo and neither would Ichigo have been killed either.Kaidou: Dinosaurs aren't monsters, but they aren't pets either. Every living thing has a comfort zone that must be respect or else people find out just how fragile we are. It doesn't matter how solid your security is. Fail to respect that distance for a second, and it might be your last.
- Temper-Ceratops: Chapter 10 has the zoo's two male Centrosaurus, the larger Daikichi and the smaller Shoukichi, getting into a fight to win over the female, Umeko.
- Terrifying Tyrannosaur: Subverted by Enoshima Dinoland's Tyrannosaurus rex, Hanako. Being 36 years old, she is elderly by tyrannosaur standards, so she cannot bite as hard or move around as much as she used to. The keepers are comfortable enough to go into the same pen as her in order to try coaxing her out into her yard.
- Wham Line: Occurs during an argument between Kaidou and Shiranui, revealing to the audience that Kaidou's role in the 2006 incident is linked to the death of Suzume's father, Suma Ichirou. Suzume's reaction to hearing it says it all.Shiranui: Are you covering for her out of guilt for killing Suma Ichirou?
- Wham Shot: In Kaidou's flashback to the 2006 incident, both Kaidou and the readers get one in the form of a full-page panel revealing Ichigo, Enoshima Dinoland's Allosaurus standing over the mangled corpse of her keeper Yamaga, with his blood dripping from her jaws.