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

Answer:

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.

Shadow CardsPersona and ArcanaFused Persona
Auspicious Pachyderm
Radiance
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
×The Shadowed One
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
=Skadi
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
×Human-eating Lady
Queen
Level: 20
Power
Justice
Level: 41
×Yaksini
Empress
Level: 20
=Kushinada-Hime
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
Advocate
Level: 17
×Foolish Monk
Ascetic
Level: 11
Orobas
Hierophant
Level: 17
×Koppa-Tengu
Temperance
Level: 11
=Matador
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
Advocate
Level: 39
Kumbhanda
Hermit
Level: 42
×Unicorn
Hierophant
Level: 39
=Fortuna
Fortune
Level: 46
Mad Marsh Horse
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
=Abaddon
Judgement
Level: 74
Tornado Devil
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
AbaddonJudgement2B
MithrasSun5R
LilithMoon2I
HanumanStar3N
BelphegorTower7G
BaphometDevil2A
JikokutenTemperance1J
MatadorDeath6O
Take-MinakataHanged Man3K
SiegfriedStrength3E
FortunaFortune3R
Ippon-DataraHermit8T
ArchangelJustice4H
SlimeChariot5E
Kushinada-HimeLovers6N
BerithHierophant5T
BarongEmperor3R
KaliEmpress2A
SkadiPriestess4D
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.]

 Arahabaki35Hermit Pixie2Lovers Shiki-Ouji21Chariot Pisaca29Death Bicorn4Hermit Sandman24Magician Unicorn39Hierophant Norn52Fortune Koppa-Tengu11Temperance Kodama11Star Yaksini20Empress Makami15Temperance Kurama Tengu56Hermit Mokoi9Death Melchizedek60Justice Garuda52Star Scathach45Priestess Mothman33Moon Eligor16Emperor Lilim32Devil Ganesha53Sun Baphomet58Devil Hariti40Empress Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Scathach45Priestess Lilim32Devil Unicorn39Hierophant Narcissus50Lovers Hanuman64Star Queen Mab43Magician Anubis37Judgement Belphegor37Tower Queen Mab43Magician Baphomet58Devil Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Melchizedek60Justice Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Cerberus55Chariot Dakini50Empress Anubis37Judgement Koumokuten49Hermit Dakini50Empress Valkyrie44Strength Anubis37Judgement Kaiwan36Star Ose42Fool Zouchouten31Strength Power41Justice Dionysus61Fool Kurama Tengu56Hermit Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Lamia26Empress Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Siegfried69Strength Decarabia32Fool Parvati56Lovers Parvati56Lovers Barong52Emperor Fortuna46Fortune Power41Justice Yurlungur42Sun Thoth36Emperor Unicorn39Hierophant Decarabia32Fool Zouchouten31Strength Arahabaki35Hermit Phoenix22Hierophant Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man Atropos39Fortune Horus49Sun Lilim32Devil Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Principality29Justice Lilim32Devil Forneus63Hierophant Naga24Hermit Cerberus55Chariot Narcissus50Lovers Dakini50Empress Belphegor37Tower − Power41Justice Rangda48Magician Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Lilim32Devil Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Kumbhanda42Hermit Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Choronzon28Magician Pale Rider53Death Melchizedek60Justice Ara Mitama31Chariot Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Power41Justice White Rider39Chariot Parvati56Lovers Arahabaki35Hermit King Frost61Emperor Skadi55Priestess Byakko49Temperance Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man Daisoujou42Hierophant Parvati56Lovers Cerberus55Chariot Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Byakko49Temperance Byakko49Temperance Ara Mitama31Chariot Pazuzu43Devil Siegfried69Strength Siegfried69Strength Valkyrie44Strength White Rider39Chariot Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Valkyrie44Strength Thor64Chariot Mithra33Temperance Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Cerberus55Chariot Norn52Fortune Rangda48Magician Legion38Fool Lilith60Moon Power41Justice Queen Mab43Magician Anubis37Judgement Mothman33Moon Legion38Fool Sandman24Magician Thoth36Emperor Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man Barong52Emperor Setanta28Emperor Hariti40Empress Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Thoth36Emperor Surt59Magician Decarabia32Fool Principality29Justice Dakini50Empress Pale Rider53Death Pazuzu43Devil Ara Mitama31Chariot Legion38Fool Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Barong52Emperor Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man − − Thoth36Emperor Siegfried69Strength Titania56Empress Black Rider59Tower Kumbhanda42Hermit Atropos39Fortune Okuninushi44Emperor Kumbhanda42Hermit King Frost61Emperor − − Lakshmi69Fortune Melchizedek60Justice Dionysus61Fool Scathach45Priestess Narcissus50Lovers Orobas17Hierophant Lachesis34Fortune Kusi Mitama14Strength Fuu-Ki23Star Kin-Ki25Chariot Clotho26Fortune Pisaca29Death Anzu25Hierophant Power41Justice Matador19Death Jatayu32Tower Decarabia32Fool Matador19Death Atropos39Fortune Shiisaa16Chariot Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man Belphegor37Tower Queen Mab43Magician Isis26Priestess Clotho26Fortune Take-Minakata29Hanged Man Choronzon28Magician Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Lilim32Devil Isis26Priestess Arahabaki35Hermit Leanan Sidhe19Lovers Nekomata17Magician Hell Biker39Death Power41Justice Shiki-Ouji21Chariot Isis26Priestess Principality29Justice Kin-Ki25Chariot Narcissus50Lovers Naga24Hermit Barong52Emperor Scathach45Priestess Byakko49Temperance Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Take-Minakata29Hanged Man Unicorn39Hierophant Leanan Sidhe19Lovers Ara Mitama31Chariot Saki Mitama6Lovers Jikokuten25Temperance Jikokuten25Temperance Shiisaa16Chariot Lilim32Devil Zouchouten31Strength Valkyrie44Strength Oni19Strength Shiisaa16Chariot Anubis37Judgement Oni19Strength White Rider39Chariot Makami15Temperance Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement White Rider39Chariot Lachesis34Fortune Choronzon28Magician Decarabia32Fool Black Ooze29Moon Koropokkuru9Hermit Sudama17Hermit Slime10Chariot Lilim32Devil Rakshasa24Strength − Leanan Sidhe19Lovers Clotho26Fortune Kaiwan36Star Kusi Mitama14Strength Kusi Mitama14Strength Oni19Strength Kusi Mitama14Strength Naga24Hermit Kusi Mitama14Strength Queen Mab43Magician Zouchouten31Strength Mithra33Temperance Isis26Priestess Orobas17Hierophant Isis26Priestess Kumbhanda42Hermit Naga24Hermit Kin-Ki25Chariot Lilim32Devil Valkyrie44Strength Naga24Hermit Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Fortuna46Fortune Garuda52Star Zouchouten31Strength Zouchouten31Strength Valkyrie44Strength Zouchouten31Strength Koumokuten49Hermit Zouchouten31Strength Surt59Magician Siegfried69Strength Byakko49Temperance Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Unicorn39Hierophant Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Kelpie6Strength Phoenix22Hierophant Mokoi9Death Sudama17Hermit Phoenix22Hierophant Berith9Hierophant High Pixie16Fool Decarabia32Fool Mithra33Temperance Slime10Chariot Onmoraki12Moon Shiisaa16Chariot Shiisaa16Chariot Unicorn39Hierophant Berith9Hierophant Unicorn39Hierophant Mothman33Moon Lilim32Devil Sandman24Magician Jatayu32Tower Pisaca29Death Jack Frost11Magician Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Andras10Devil Isis26Priestess Naga24Hermit Leanan Sidhe19Lovers Nekomata17Magician Pisaca29Death Power41Justice Shiisaa16Chariot Isis26Priestess Archangel16Justice Shiisaa16Chariot Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Ippon-Datara13Hermit Thoth36Emperor Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Mithra33Temperance Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Inugami14Hanged Man Phoenix22Hierophant Kikuri-Hime40Priestess Byakko49Temperance Clotho26Fortune Unicorn39Hierophant Queen Mab43Magician Jikokuten25Temperance Mithra33Temperance Queen Mab43Magician Rangda48Magician Lilim32Devil Arahabaki35Hermit Thoth36Emperor Lilim32Devil Byakko49Temperance Choronzon28Magician Pale Rider53Death Koumokuten49Hermit Isis26Priestess Unicorn39Hierophant Hariti40Empress Girimehkala44Moon Inugami14Hanged Man Kaiwan36Star Suzaku19Sun Decarabia32Fool Sui-Ki24Moon Kodama11Star Yaksini20Empress Mithras39Sun Thoth36Emperor Matador19Death Archangel16Justice Isis26Priestess Matador19Death Kaiwan36Star Onmoraki12Moon Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Power41Justice Hell Biker39Death Rakshasa24Strength Lilim32Devil Clotho26Fortune Cu Chulainn67Star Siegfried69Strength White Rider39Chariot Lilith60Moon Baphomet58Devil Valkyrie44Strength Sarasvati50Priestess Black Rider59Tower Nebiros62Devil Yurlungur42Sun Kaiwan36Star Narcissus50Lovers Yurlungur42Sun Siegfried69Strength Pazuzu43Devil Kali77Empress Ananta43Star − Raja Naga55Temperance Kushinada-Hime42Lovers Siegfried69Strength Chernobog62Death Siegfried69Strength Mithra33Temperance Pazuzu43Devil Hell Biker39Death Valkyrie44Strength Koumokuten49Hermit Cerberus55Chariot Hanuman64Star Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man Pazuzu43Devil Ose42Fool Hecatoncheires42Hanged Man Siegfried69Strength Pisaca29Death Vishnu83Fool Baphomet58Devil Surt59Magician Forneus63Hierophant Kumbhanda42Hermit Cerberus55Chariot Mara73Tower Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Hariti40Empress Norn52Fortune Ganesha53Sun Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Byakko49Temperance Yamata-no-Orochi64Judgement Attis82Hanged Man Fortuna46Fortune Pale Rider53Death Barong52Emperor Fortuna46Fortune Abaddon74Judgement Yurlungur42Sun − Mot72Death Moloch60Hanged Man Kurama Tengu56Hermit Garuda52Star Surt59Magician Fuu-Ki23Star Zouchouten31Strength Shiisaa16Chariot Sui-Ki24Moon Lilim32Devil Kusi Mitama14Strength Isis26Priestess Jatayu32Tower Pazuzu43Devil Suzaku19Sun − Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Mithras39Sun Valkyrie44Strength Lilim32Devil Dakini50Empress Kaiwan36Star Arahabaki35Hermit Mithra33Temperance Ame-no-Uzume29Lovers Zouchouten31Strength

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!!)