Wow... I couldn't believe it when I saw it. There I was, watching Fushigi Yuugi for the first time and Nuriko, one of the Suzaku Seishi (good guys), gets killed by Ashitare, the part-man, part-wolf Seiryuu Seishi (bad guys). What was even more amazing was that she... sorry, he... discovers that he loves Miaka as a man. It's pretty hard to think of Nuriko as a man, when he's so beautiful. (It's also weird to see him with a man's body when he doesn't have a shirt on because he has a woman's face.) It was even harder to imagine that he was gone (even when I was watching FY for the second and third times).
Besides Chichiri, Nuriko is one of my favorite characters. I mean, he's just too cool. His character really develops in the anime, starting with that episode back in the cave when we found out about his personal background and why he dresses and acts like a woman. (Nuriko had a sister named Korin when he was young. Korin was killed in an accident, and Nuriko couldn't get over it, so he decided to live his life as Korin, so that it would seem that she's still alive.)
When he decided to chop off his hair, he also separated from his feminine side. Finally, he was able to let go of his grief for Korin, and start living his life for himself, to protect the Suzaku no Miko. Even when he was fatally wounded from the fight with Ashitare, he still gathered enough strength to move that huge boulder so that the rest of the gang could obtain the Genbu Shinzaho. Right before Nuriko died, he glimpsed Korin's spirit and realized that Korin was at his side the whole time. I'm not sure what to make of the scene when Nuriko and Miaka were in the modern world. They were shopping and eating and having a lot of fun. It was a wonderful scene, and I think of it as Miaka meeting Nuriko in the modern world, and that was how their friendship would have been, if they didn't have the responsibility of saving the country.
This episode really changes the pace of Fushigi Yuugi. From here on, the plot starts to move faster, and other characters will start to whatever, as well. This episode is not the last of Nuriko; she will always be with Miaka and the others in spirit because, remember, Miaka is wearing Nuriko's power bracelets. [Upcoming Spoiler Warning -Ed.] This is also not the last of Ashitare, as well. Nuriko killed the human half of Ashitare, and he still lives in wolf form.
Here's some interesting information on Nuriko:
Nuriko's seiyuu (voice actor) is Sakamoto Chika, who also did the voice of Lila in Bakuretsu Hunter, Kazuya in Kimagure Orange Road, Kisaragi Shun in Here is Greenwood, Ichinose Kentaro in Maison Ikkoku, and Mei in My Neighbor Totoro.