Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (synopsis)
Spoiler Warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
It has been a millennium since a global war known as the "Seven Days of Fire" destroyed human civilization. Only a tiny remnant of humanity survives, huddled in small enclaves across the continents. The Fukai, a thick jungle whose spores and plantlife are poisonous to humans, covers much of the Earth’s surface.
Feeding on the pollutants of the former human civilization, the Fukai continues to expand, enveloping the outposts of mankind and consuming them. Giant mutated insects are now the dominant form of life, living both in and above the Fukai. Of these, the Ohmu reign supreme - seventy-meter long pillbug-shaped guardians of the Fukai.
One of these islands of humanity is known as the Valley of the Wind. Protected from the spores by strong winds from the sea, these winds also power a forest of windmills to perform work and pump water from underground wells. Nonetheless, the inhabitants of the Valley must still be vigilant to ensure that the fungi do not gain a foothold amongst their crops and water supply.
All those who dare enter the Fukai must wear breathing masks, lest the spores rot their lungs. One of these explorers is the Princess Nausicaä, the only surviving child of King Jil, ruler of the Valley. Riding far above the fukai and desert on her mehve, she sails over the fossilized remains of the kyoshinhei – "Giant God Soldiers" - who destroyed civilization during the Seven Days of Fire.
Nausicaä sets down at the edge of the jungle and enters to collect spore samples. As she explores, she comes across the recently-sloughed carapace of an Ohmu. Excitedly, she removes one of the eyepieces to take back to turn into a window. As she prepares to return, she hears the report of a gunshot. Rushing back to her mehve, she sees a figure on birdback exit the forest, followed moments later by an ohmu, its dozens of eyes red in anger. She flies in front of the ohmu, dropping flashbombs to stop it and soothe its anger. Slowly, the eyes turn blue and the ohmu renters the Fukai.
Nausicaä lands next to the individual, and is surprised to see that he is Lord Yupa, a teacher who travels amongst the remaining human communities. Yupa explains that, in rescuing a small mammal, he had fired on an insect. He opens his pouch and out pops a small fox-squirrel. Though defensive at first, the fox-squirrel soon settles down and Nausicaä names him Teto. Yupa adds that he is on his way back to the Valley, and Nausicaä rides on ahead.
That evening, Yupa and Jil are discussing Yupa’s travels and the continual decline of humanity as the Fukai moves ever onward. Though protected from direct contact with the poison, it nonetheless affects everyone, slowly ossifying their bodies as it ages them prematurely.
Oh-baba, an elderly blind wise woman, claims that Yupa travels the world seeking a hero that legends say "...is a person clad in blue standing in a golden field who will find the bond between humanity and the earth, and lead the people to a pure land..." Yupa denies this, stating that he is studying the makeup of the Fukai.
During the night, Nausicaä is woken from her sleep by a large windstorm lashing the Valley. Troubled, she dresses and climbs onto the roof with the night watch. To their horror, they see a massive Torumekian transport appear out of the storm, covered in a swarm of attacking insects. The crippled vessel attempts to continue on, but is finally brought down, crashing near the fields in a massive fireball.
Nausicaä is the first to arrive at the site, and begins to search for survivors. She finds a young girl about her age in the wreckage, and is incensed to see she is a prisoner, her hands chained. Nausicaä pulls her out, but discovers that the girl has suffered a fatal injury. The girl tells Nausicaä that her name is Rastel and that she is a princess of the kingdom of Pejite. She asks Nausicaä to be sure that the transport’s cargo is destroyed. Looking over the blazing inferno, Nausicaä assures Rastel that whatever the ship was carrying has been incinerated. Relieved, Rastel settles back and quietly passes away.
Fungi from the doomed transport have landed in the fields, and the inhabitants of the Valley scramble to burn the infection before it spreads and ruins their crops. They come across one of the insects, injured, and prepare to kill it. They are stopped by Yupa, who explains that if attacked, the insect will summon a swarm which will wipeout the Valley. Using a whistle spun rapidly on the end of a string, Nausicaä lures the insect into the air and out of the Valley.
The next day, a squadron of transports and corvettes from the Torumekian Empire descend upon the Valley. Disgorging troops encased in armor and tanks, they quickly secure the Valley. Nausicaä, out in the fields when the invasion began, rushes back to the castle to find a squad of soldiers over her father, who lay dead in his bed.
Consumed in rage, she lashes out and engages them in combat. However, her weapons prove ineffective against the armor and only the sudden appearance of Lord Yupa in the middle of the fight saves Nausicaä from sharing the fate of her late father.
Outside, the inhabitants of the Valley learn of Jil’s death and prepare to rush the Torumekian line, though it would mean certain death. Nausicaä appears before them and orders them to stand down. Princess Kushana of Torumekia, the commander of the invasion force, explains to the population that it is the intention of the Torumekian Empire to burn the Fukai and reclaim the earth for humanity.
Oh-baba warns Kushana that other great empires have tried to destroy the Fukai. However, the ohmu and other insects have risen up and destroyed the empires, instead. Kushana explains that this time humanity will prevail. She reveals that the transport that had crashed the night before was carrying a proto-God Soldier. The Torumekians plan to revive it and use it against the Fukai.
Kushana decides to revive the God Soldier in the Valley, and take Nausicaä and the Valley’s elders back with her to the Torumekian capital as hostages to ensure that the residents of the Valley behave. She leaves her Chief of Staff, Kurotawa, in charge of the revival process.
Yupa seeks Nausicaä in the castle basement and discovers that she has been tending a secret garden. Nausicaä tells him that she has been raising the spores she has collected in the Fukai. If grown in clean soil and fresh water, the spores do not give off toxins. She is depressed that the garden will now die in her absence, as she hoped to discover a way to cure the pollution-induced disease that had been killing her father and the other elders.
Once airborne, the Torumekian force is set upon by a single Pejite fighter under the control of Prince Asbel, brother of the slain Rastel. He manages to destroy the Torumekian transports, but Nausicaä, horrified at the death occurring around her, climbs onto the transport and opens her arms to the diving Pejite fighter. Asbel, seeing Nausicaä, for a second sees his sister Rastel and his hesitation allows a Torumekian corvette to shoot him down. Nausicaä, Mito, and Kushana escape their burning transport aboard the Valley gunship, taken by Kushana as part of her booty. They link up with the remaining hostages, who were carried along in a glider. To the consternation of the others, Nausicaä removes her mask to show them that the upper atmosphere has been cleansed of poisons. The group settles down on a large, clear lake to determine their next course of action. However, Kushana removes a concealed gun and attempts to assume command. Before she can do anything, a group of Ohmu rise from the depths and encircle them. Nausicaä, unafraid, allows the Ohmu to examine her with their feelers and they recede.
Nausicaä boards her mehve and starts to explore the lake area. She comes across Asbel, under attack by a group of insects. Out of ammunition, the insects force Asbel off a cliff. Nausicaä catches him as he falls, but her mehve is clipped by a large insect and they crash to the jungle floor, sinking from view in the fine sand. Unconscious from the impact of the fall, Nausicaä dreams of her past. On a trip with her parents and retainers, she had come across a baby Ohmu. She tried to shelter it from view, but her father took it away as Nausicaä pleaded for them to spare it.
She awakes from her dream to find herself in a massive underground forest. Huge trees spread their branches in a canopy, with the fine sand sifting down from between the branches. Nausicaä discovers that the trees of the fukai are absorbing the poisons, crystallizing them in their dieing cells. This process has cleansed the water and soil of poisons. They determine that the floor of the Fukai is anchored in the branches of these forest giants. The Fukai is actually slowly purifying the water and soil of Earth. Happy with their discovery, they share a meal of chico nuts (given to Nausicaä by the girls of the Valley before she left) and go to sleep.
Back in the Valley, Yupa discovers the Torumekian plans to revive the God Solider. While he leaves to find Nausicaä, the rest of the villagers rise up against the Torumekians.
The following morning, Nausicaä and Asbel fly to the capital city of Pejite, only to find that the insects of the Fukai, led by the Ohmu, have attacked and destroyed it. Standing in the ruins, they see a Pejite transport land. Asbel learns that the Torumekians lured the insects to Pejite, and that they plan to do the same to the Torumekian forces now occupying the Valley of the Wind. They will then capture the God Soldier for themselves and use it to destroy the Fukai, which is now absorbing their city. Nausicaä attempts to escape to warn her people, but is restrained. Asbel moves to help her, and is knocked unconscious by his troops.
Nausicaä awakes aboard the transport. The Queen of Pejite, along with some of the other women, release Nausicaä from her prison aboard the plane. They then dress her in the outfit of one of the Pejite girls and take her to her mehve. However, a Torumekian gunship appears and grapples the Pejite vessel in a boarding operation. Nausicaä launches from the transport, and is chased by the gunship. She successfully evades them long enough for Yupa and Mito to appear in the Valley gunship and dispatch it. Nausicaä transfers to the gunship and they head off to find the baby ohmu.
By the failing light, they see a literal sea of ohmu moving towards the Valley, their eyes red in anger. She moves on, and comes across the object of their anger - a baby ohmu has been suspended with barbed hooks from beneath a Pejite Flying Jar. The creature has been run through with harpoons and is bleeding profusely.
Enraged by the atrocity she sees before her, she tries to get the Pejite to stop. They respond with gunfire, and Nausicaä is hit in the shoulder and ankle by rounds as she does a flying tackle into the Jar. The Jar descends to an island in the middle of an acid lake, and the tortured ohmu yanks the Jar out of the sky as soon as it attains landfall. Nausicaä goes to the creature, which is trying to return to its kind by heading for the acid lake. She pleads with it to stop, but it moves onwards. The movement aggravates its injuries, and its spurting fluids stain Nausicaä’s outfit blue. As the acidic water flows across her boot and into her wound, she cries out and collapses in pain on the beach, grasping her ankle. The ohmu immediately stops, and deploys its feelers into the wound. There is a soft glow and the wound is healed. It then moves onto her shoulder and heals that wound as well.
By now the Pejite are stirring, and Nausicaä turns her gun upon them. She orders them to take the ohmu to a point before the advancing horde in an attempt to get them to stop their advance.
The inhabitants of the Valley, outmatched by the Torumekian forces, have fought a withdrawal back to an ancient and shattered starship from before the Seven Days of Fire. Kushana has since returned from the Fukai and gathers her forces to put down the rebellion. As she arrives, she sees the advancing ohmu horde and orders her troops to take up a defensive position around the starship while she returns and gets the God Solider. Kurosawa tells her that it is too soon, but she replies that their situation is too pressing and leaves. The troops, seeing the huge insect force bearing down on them, soon break ranks and start to run. However, Kushana appears on the hill atop an armored vehicle.
To the awe and horror of Torumekian and Valley-person alike, a massive humanoid form appears, climbing over the hill and over Kushana. The God Soldier, its flesh flowing like mud, turns toward the approaching ohmu. At Kushana’s command, a beam of pure energy lances out across the forward echelon of ohmu and a multi-kiloton nuclear fireball erupts, vaporizing the entire front group. However, the God Soldier was birthed far too soon and the flesh starts to pour from its inner skeletal structure. Again, the nuclear beam fires and another huge group of ohmu are destroyed. However, by now the nuclear core is exhausted and the God Soldier crumbles into a pile of liquid flesh and bones. Though savaged, there are still thousands of ohmu who continue to charge. Those on the starship brace themselves for their impending deaths. Suddenly, shouts and cries erupt from the crowd as Nausicaä appears over the acid lake. The Pot sets the baby ohmu down and Nausicaä leaps out. They stand before the ohmu horde that, blinded by their rage, plow right over them. Nausicaä is thrown high in the air by the impact of the thousands of legs, disappearing in the heaving mass.
Assuming their princess is dead, the Valley-people mourn. However, the ohmu suddenly stop. From the center, the red eyes of anger turn the cool blue of peace. Like the ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond, the blue expands outwards amongst the ohmu until all are at peace. The ohmu surrounding the broken body of Nausicaä put out their feelers and lift her into the sky, healing her. As she awakes and rises to her feet, the sheer number of glowing feelers supporting her make it look as if she was standing in a field of golden wheat.
We are treated to scenes of life returning to normal in the Valley. The Torumekians board their transports and depart, Yupa and Prince Asbel explore the Fukai, and Nausicaä trains young fliers.
And in the under-forest of the Fukai, a single chiko plant sprouts in the clean sand beside Nausicaä’s discarded helmet.
When the children describe the scene to the blind Oh-baba, she cries out that the prophecy of the one in blue upon a field of gold has come true. Nausicaä is the one who found the bond between humanity and the ohmu.