The first step is to identify the animals shown in the images. The names of these animation characters are not relevant, as hinted by the image of a generic unnamed wolf from Frozen. As in any image identification, the specific choices of the images used in depicting the animals though, are important. For instance, the images of the tiger, elephant, ox, and boar, capture them in some unusual state, and the image of the dragon in particular, has been photo-edited to include a crown. Each of the images depict the animals “with human-like characteristics”, which is hinted by the flavortext phrase as well as the puzzle title word “anthropomorphism”. Doing an online search of the characteristics with the corresponding animals would reveal the aha that the given images reference pieces in Dai Shogi (or Large Shogi), a Shogi (“General Chess”) variant with more pieces and played on a larger 15x15 board. Other hints in the flavortext are the words “general”, “large”, “armies” and “checking”. The numbering represents notation for their coordinate positions on a board.
Other parts of the puzzle which could help provide clues:
- The only non-anthropomorphic image is that of a King, which clues a form of chess
- The white and black borders around the images, which represent and clue the two playing sides in Shogi/chess
- The image-edited Dragon King, which is a standard Shogi piece
- The Chinese numerals, which together with the list of 1-15, represent and clue standard notation board coordinates for some form of Chinese/Japanese chess on a 15x15 board; and
- The overall beige image background resembles the color of the standard Shogi board.
The images, all stills from animated movies, represent 13 different Dai Shogi pieces:
Solvers need to use the referenced pieces and their corresponding board coordinates to recreate a Dai Shogi position. And as hinted by the lone White king, this is a miniature Shogi problem (Tsume Shogi), similar to a chess problem. Hence the next step is to solve for the shortest forced mate sequence of moves by Black (moving up the board as per Shogi convention), following the rules for Tsume Shogi. One of the helpful rules (unlike chess problems) hinted by the flavortext phrase “keep checking”, is that every move by Black must be a check, which narrows the possible moves in this sequence. And unlike Shogi, captured pieces may not be dropped back into play in Dai Shogi.
Solvers also need to know the rules for Dai Shogi for which, besides its Wikipedia page, there are at least two other detailed sources available online (source 1/source 2). The moves for each piece are shown below, and there is one unique Dai Shogi move used by White in move 3 called “Igui” (stationary feeding), where certain pieces such as the Horned Falcon can move 2 squares, including making a capture on an adjacent square and returning to its original square. As this is a intervention move which, if missed, results in a valid but non-optimal 5-move mate, the second liner of the flavortext hints that White should play optimally to “stay alive as long as possible”, just like in a standard chess problem. Standard Shogi promotion rules also apply, i.e. Black pieces can only promote when crossing into Rows A-E, or when capturing within Rows A-E. So the only valid promotion is employed by Black in move 3, from a Cat Sword into a Gold General to give check.
Here is the required Tsume Shogi solution:
|Move||Black (shown in red above)||White (shown in blue above)||Number of squares moved by Black piece||Index into name of Black piece|
|1||Ferocious Leopard – 10A||King – 8C||1||F|
|2||Soaring Eagle – 6A||King – 7D||5||I|
|3||Cat Sword – 8E + (promotes to Gold)||Horned Falcon x ! (“Igui”) 8E||1||C|
|4||Dragon King – 7F||King – 6D||7||K|
|5||Flying Stag – 5E||King – 5C||2||L|
|6||Evil Wolf – 4C||1||E|
The theme of a large board Shogi variant, and the specific positions of the long-range pieces on the board, clues that the number of squares moved by each Black piece in the mating sequence is important. This is further hinted by the flavortext phrase “how far they have come”. Using these as indices into the names of the corresponding Black pieces extracts the answer for this puzzle: FICKLE (thematically, a common anthropomorphic characteristic of cats).
Note: Below are some alternative possible constant checks which do not result in mate in minimum number of moves.
|1||Ferocious Leopard – 10C||Drunk Elephant x 10C|
|2||Violent Ox x 10C +||Soaring Eagle x 10C|
|1||Soaring Eagle x 9A||Cat Sword x 9A|
|1||White Horse x 6E||Blind Tiger x 6E|
|2||Ferocious Leopard – 9B||King x 9B|
|2||White Horse x 6E||Blind Tiger x 6E|
|3||Soaring Eagle x 6C||Angry Boar x 6C|
|3||Soaring Eagle – 5B||Cat Sword x 5B|
|3||Dragon King x 8D||Drunk Elephant x 8D|
|3||Cat Sword – 8E =||King – 7E|
|4||Dragon King – 7F||Ferocious Leopard x 7F|
|3||Cat Sword – 8E =||King – 7E|
|4||Flying Stag – 6F||Ferocious Leopard x 6F|
|5||Dragon King – 7F||King – 6d|
|4||White Horse x 6E||Blind Tiger x 6E|
|5||Dragon King x 8D||Drunk Elephant x 8D|
|5||Dragon King x 6E||Blind Tiger x 6E|
|6||White Horse x 6E||King x 6E|
|5||Flying Stag x 5D||Ferocious Leopard x 5D|
|5||White Horse x 6E||Blind Tiger x 6E|
|6||Flying Stag – 5C||Cat Sword x 5C|
|6||White Horse – 2F||Violent Ox x 2F|
|6||Evil Wolf – 4D||Blind Tiger x 4D|