by Jesse Gelles and Greg Edelston

special thanks to Github user @chinhodado, who, in addition to creating and maintaining the online fusion calculator, was highly responsive to our pull requests

This is a matching logic puzzle structured like a trading card game. Solvers play the role of a silent guest in a town where this game is popular. Exposition and trading rules are provided through an interaction with two sisters, “C” and “J.” Under the guise of trading with these two sisters, the concept is that pairing two cards will result in a particular output, and solvers must optimize the matches to fit the constraints listed within the puzzle. The solver is given a list of 20 cards and must figure out the best way to pair them with a pool of 20 remaining cards such that the 20 output cards will: 1) all be different Types and levels, and 2) all be a higher level than the cards which generated them. However, the solver isn’t given any information how to predict the output for a given pair.

Cards depict a “Shadow” which each have a descriptive name, a level, and a type. If solvers note the listed types, they will notice that there are 20 distinct types. The use of “strange looking cards” in the flavortext coupled with the names of the 20 types heavily suggests that these cards are related to the major arcana in Tarot (Fortitude = Strength, Shaman = Magician, Celestial = Star, etc). If solvers attempt to search for the names of the Shadows along with the tarot designation, they should consistently hit upon the JRPG Persona 5.

In Persona 5, the characters are high school students who awaken their Persona powers and become secret supernatural vigilantes (confirmed by “rebellious high school students” in the flavortext). During the game’s dungeons, players encounter “Shadows” which they can capture as new Persona to use in battles. A core mechanic of the game is fusing Persona together to create more powerful Persona. Fusions are completed by two twin attendants named Caroline and Justine, who are referenced in this puzzle. Specific to Persona 5, fusions are visualized as a gruesome beheading of the Persona and so the “take your head off” is to confirm using Persona 5 as the dataset and not other Persona franchise games.

With this realization, solvers can now start progressing through the puzzle. Taking the provided Shadow names, solvers can identify which Persona they equate to (this wiki page is particularly helpful) and the provided levels match the hardcoded base-levels associated with each Persona. Fusions are dictated by two parameters: arcana and Persona level. Each arcana pairing maps to a specific output arcana (an arcana fusion table can be found below). The average level of the fused Persona dictate which Persona from the resulting arcana is generated. There are many resources online to help solvers navigate fusion mechanics, but this Persona Calculator is the best. Importantly, the comment that they “do not play with expansion packs” tells solvers to avoid including any Persona that are from downloadable content, which is a setting they can toggle in the above Persona Calculator (“set your expectations correctly”). A sample solution path is included below.

Auspicious Pachyderm
Level: 53
×Awakened God
Recluse
Level: 35
Ganesha
Sun
Level: 53
×Arahabaki
Hermit
Level: 35
=Baphomet
Devil
Level: 58
Blood-thirsty Demoness
Queen
Level: 50
Abbess
Level: 45
Dakini
Empress
Level: 50
×Scathach
Priestess
Level: 45
=Barong
Emperor
Level: 52
Chanting Baboon
King
Level: 36
×Vampire Moth
Satellite
Level: 33
Thoth
Emperor
Level: 36
×Mothman
Moon
Level: 33
=Belphegor
Tower
Level: 37
Dancing Witch
Shaman
Level: 48
×Raging Bird God
Zodiac
Level: 52
Rangda
Magician
Level: 48
×Garuda
Star
Level: 52
Priestess
Level: 55
Destructive Beauty
Devotee
Level: 56
×Woman Who Brings Ruin
Demon
Level: 32
Parvati
Lovers
Level: 56
×Lilim
Devil
Level: 32
=Lilith
Moon
Level: 60
Divine Warrior
Neutrality
Level: 41
Queen
Level: 20
Power
Justice
Level: 41
×Yaksini
Empress
Level: 20
Lovers
Level: 42
Drunken Serpents
Perspicacity
Level: 64
×Envoy of Slumber
Shaman
Level: 24
Yamata-no-Orochi
Judgement
Level: 64
×Sandman
Magician
Level: 24
=Siegfried
Strength
Level: 69
Equine Sage
Level: 17
×Foolish Monk
Ascetic
Level: 11
Orobas
Hierophant
Level: 17
×Koppa-Tengu
Temperance
Level: 11
Death
Level: 19
Gathering Devil
Shaman
Level: 28
×War-hungry Horseman
King
Level: 16
Choronzon
Magician
Level: 28
×Eligor
Emperor
Level: 16
=Take-Minakata
Hanged Man
Level: 29
Jealous Lover
Devotee
Level: 19
×Bringer of Misfortune
Barouche
Level: 21
Leanan Sidhe
Lovers
Level: 19
×Shiki-Ouji
Chariot
Level: 21
=Jikokuten
Temperance
Level: 25
Leafy Old Man
Recluse
Level: 9
×Beguiling Girl
Devotee
Level: 2
Koropokkuru
Hermit
Level: 9
×Pixie
Lovers
Level: 2
=Slime
Chariot
Level: 10
Life-Draining Spirit
Recluse
Level: 42
×Expressionless Beast
Level: 39
Kumbhanda
Hermit
Level: 42
×Unicorn
Hierophant
Level: 39
=Fortuna
Fortune
Level: 46
Fortitude
Level: 6
×Dirty Two-horned Beast
Recluse
Level: 4
Kelpie
Strength
Level: 6
×Bicorn
Hermit
Level: 4
=Berith
Hierophant
Level: 9
Mocking Snowman
Shaman
Level: 11
×Night-walking Warrior
Quietus
Level: 9
Jack Frost
Magician
Level: 11
×Mokoi
Death
Level: 9
=Ippon-Datara
Hermit
Level: 13
Mountain Girl
Abbess
Level: 40
×Corpse-eating Corpse
Quietus
Level: 29
Kikuri-Hime
Priestess
Level: 40
×Pisaca
Death
Level: 29
=Queen Mab
Magician
Level: 43
Possessive Dog Ghost
Suspended
Level: 14
×Hanging Tree Spirit
Zodiac
Level: 11
Inugami
Hanged Man
Level: 14
×Kodama
Star
Level: 11
=Archangel
Justice
Level: 16
Spear-wielding General
Zodiac
Level: 67
×Pagan Saviour
Neutrality
Level: 60
Cu Chulainn
Star
Level: 67
×Melchizedek
Justice
Level: 60
=Kali
Empress
Level: 77
The Black Avenger
Quietus
Level: 62
×Final Measurer
Providence
Level: 52
Chernobog
Death
Level: 62
×Norn
Fortune
Level: 52
=Hanuman
Star
Level: 64
Throbbing King of Desire
Edifice
Level: 73
×Monk of the Valley
Recluse
Level: 56
Mara
Tower
Level: 73
×Kurama Tengu
Hermit
Level: 56
Judgement
Level: 74
Zodiac
Level: 23
×Hunting Wolf Spirit
Ascetic
Level: 15
Fuu-Ki
Star
Level: 23
×Makami
Temperance
Level: 15
=Mithras
Sun
Level: 39

Once solvers figure out the correct solution, they will have 20 new Persona, one from each arcana spanning Magician to Judgement (there are no World arcana Persona in the game), and each will have a calculated rarity. Since rarity is not a feature in the source material (which is confirmed by “these Shadows have the extra attribute of rarity” in the introduction), solvers should suspect that this is an indexing method. Reordering the cards into reverse arcana order (as clued by “look up” in the introduction) and indexing into the Persona names will spell the instruction BRING A JOKER THEN TRADE. In addition to a joker being a playing card that no one would miss if traded away, the joker symbolizes the missing arcana—The Fool—and is also the codename for Persona 5’s unnamed protagonist.

Upon delivering a joker to HQ, solvers can trade the joker for the answer PLACEHOLDER.

As an additional easter egg, the title of this puzzle also refers to Persona. In the series, Persona are managed and fused in a location called the Velvet Room. The background music playing in this room is always an arrangement of the same song titled “Subete no Hito no Tamashii no Uta” or “Poem/Aria of [Everyone’s] Soul.” The title “Anima Oratorio” is a subtle allusion to this staple in the series. Anyone who has played a Persona game can attest to spending hours listening to this song as they attempt to optimize their Persona fusions.

PersonaArcanaRarityLetter
MithrasSun5R
LilithMoon2I
HanumanStar3N
BelphegorTower7G
BaphometDevil2A
JikokutenTemperance1J
Take-MinakataHanged Man3K
SiegfriedStrength3E
FortunaFortune3R
Ippon-DataraHermit8T
ArchangelJustice4H
SlimeChariot5E
BerithHierophant5T
BarongEmperor3R
KaliEmpress2A
Queen MabMagician3E

#### Arcana Fusion Table:

[This table scrolls horizontally.]

 Fool Magician Priestess Empress Emperor Hiero Lovers Chariot Justice Hermit Fortune Strength Hanged Death Temper Devil Tower Star Moon Sun Judge Fool Fool Death Moon Hanged Temper Hermit Chariot Moon Star Priestess Lovers Death Tower Strength Hiero Temper Empress Magician Justice Justice Sun Fool Magician Magician Temper Justice Hanged Death Devil Priestess Emperor Lovers Justice Fool Empress Hermit Chariot Hiero Temper Priestess Lovers Hiero Strength Magician Priestess Priestess Emperor Empress Magician Fortune Hiero Death Temper Magician Devil Death Magician Devil Moon Hanged Hermit Hiero Chariot Justice Priestess Empress Empress Justice Fool Judge Star Lovers Strength Hermit Chariot Priestess Fool Priestess Sun Emperor Lovers Fortune Tower Emperor Empress Emperor Emperor Fortune Fool Strength Chariot Hiero Sun Tower Devil Hermit Devil Justice Star Lovers Tower Judge Priestess Emperor Hierophant Hiero Strength Star Hanged Fortune Justice Fool Sun Chariot Death Hanged Judge Tower Priestess Lovers Empress Hierophant Lovers Lovers Temper Judge Chariot Strength Death Sun Temper Strength Moon Empress Chariot Magician Empress Hanged Lovers Chariot Chariot Moon Devil Priestess Hermit Fool Devil Strength Temper Fortune Moon Lovers Priestess − Chariot Justice Justice Magician Emperor Hiero Lovers Fool Emperor Fool Sun Empress Devil Hanged − Justice Hermit Hermit Star Hiero Star Strength Strength Priestess Judge Strength Priestess Devil Emperor Hermit Fortune Fortune Temper Emperor Star Empress Hiero Hanged Devil Sun Star Tower Fortune Strength Strength Temper Hiero Chariot Death Chariot Moon Magician Moon − Strength Hanged Man Hanged Moon Death Fortune Hermit Justice Strength Hiero Star Hanged Man Death Death Hanged Chariot Sun Devil Hiero Priestess − Death Temperance Temper Fool Fortune Sun Fortune Magician Hermit Temperance Devil Devil Magician Strength Chariot Hermit Lovers Devil Tower Tower Death Hermit Emperor Moon Tower Star Star Temper Judge Fortune Star Moon Moon Empress Fool Moon Sun Sun Death Sun Judgement Judge Judgement Fool Magician Priestess Empress Emperor Hiero Lovers Chariot Justice Hermit Fortune Strength Hanged Death Temper Devil Tower Star Moon Sun Judge

#### Sample Solution:

When considering all possible fusions for the provided Persona, solvers can greatly reduce the number of possible permutations by taking the various puzzle constraints into account. To review, the constraints are:

1. No created Persona should be the same as any of the starting Persona (noted as a red cell with red text below)
2. Every arcana represented in the starting Persona must be represented in the outputs—this means one of each arcana and no Fool Persona (noted in red text in a red cell below)
3. Valid fusions should result in Persona that are of a higher level than either of the Persona used to create them (noted in red cells below)

Therefore, the table of valid possible fusions looks like this:

[This table scrolls horizontally.]

The following is one possible solve path:

1. Yamata-no-Orochi must make a level 69 Persona (9 Persona eliminated by level)
2. Cu Chulainn must fuse with Melchizedek to make Kali! (1 Persona eliminated by parents)
3. Lilim must make a Moon Persona (2 Persona eliminated)
4. Dakini must fuse with Scathach to make Barong! (5 Persona eliminated by parents)
5. Only Hermit must be Ippon-Datara from Jack Frost and Mokoi! (5 Persona eliminated by parents)
6. Shiki-Ouji must fuse with Leanan Sidhe to make Jikokuten! (1 Persona eliminated by parents, 1 Persona eliminated by arcana)
7. Only Judgement must be Abaddon from Kurama Tengu and Mara! (5 Persona eliminated by parents)
8. Parvati must fuse with Lilim to make Lilith! (1 Persona eliminated by parents)
9. Kikuri-Hime must make a level 43 Queen Mab (2 Persona eliminated by level)
10. Only Devil must be Baphomet from Arahabaki and Ganesha! (3 Persona eliminated by parents)
11. Norn must fuse with Chernobog to make Hanuman! (1 Persona eliminated by parents)
12. Only Hierophant must be Berith from Bicorn and Kelpie! (3 Persona eliminated by parents)
13. Only Chariot must be Slime from Pixie and Koropokkuru! (3 Persona eliminated by parents)
14. Only Sun must be Mithras from Makami and Fuu-Ki! (5 Persona eliminated by parents)
15. Koppa-Tengu must make level 19 Matador (1 Persona eliminated by arcana)
16. Rangda must fuse with Garuda to make Skadi! (1 Persona eliminated by parents, 1 Persona eliminated by arcana)
17. Yamata-no-Orochi must fuse with Sandman to make Siegfried! (1 Persona eliminated by parents, 2 Persona eliminated by arcana)
18. Thoth must fuse with Mothman to make Belphegor! (1 Persona eliminated by parents, 1 Persona eliminated by arcana)
19. Kumbhanda must fuse with Unicorn to make Fortuna! (2 Persona eliminated by parents, 1 Persona eliminated by arcana)
20. Orobas must fuse with Koppa-Tengu to make Matador! (1 Persona eliminated by parents)
21. Inugami and Kodama must fuse to make Archangel! (1 Persona eliminated by arcana)
22. Eligor and Choronzon must fuse to make Take-Minakata! (0 Persona eliminated)
23. Yaksini and Power must fuse to make Kushinada-Hime! (0 Persona eliminated)
24. Pisaca and Kikuri-Hime must fuse to make Queen Mab! (all done!!)