I guess Yoshihiro Nakamura is a somewhat atypical Japanese director. Most directors over there are either very focused on the festival market or aim squarely at local audiences. Nakamura falls somewhere in between both stretches. He's had a couple of international near-breakthroughs in his career, but he never quite managed to become a household festival name in the West. And when the occasional Nakamura film does finds its way into the hands of Western critics, it's met with warm feedback, though it never quite tends to stick.
The thing with Nakamura is that he is one of those directors who by and large goes with the flow. When he started in the early 00's he tried to make a name for himself directing horror films, a few years later he switched to comedy/dramady and nowadays he's all into police thrillers. He's not very bad at what he does, most of his films have a clear base quality, but he never really excels at anything and he never quite manages to put a personal touch on the projects he works on. This makes it difficult to fully embrace his work.
If you were into Asian suspense cinema some 15 years ago, chances are you've come across Suiyô Puremia: Sekai Saikyô J Horâ SP Nihon no Kowai Yoru [Dark Tales of Japan] and Busu [The Booth], two films that enjoyed minor successes in the West. More hardcore fans probably saw Watashi no Akachan [Lizard Baby] and @beibimeru [@babymail] too, though these two hardly made a dent here. They're all decent enough examples of Asian suspense, with Busu being the best of the bunch, but they're not what you call flagship material.
After the interest in Asian horror had died off, Nakamura switched to drama (often served with a slice of wry comedy). Ahiru to Kamo no Koinrokka [The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker], Fisshu Sutori [Fish Story] and Goruden Suranba [Golden Slumber] are all more than decent films, a tad long maybe but definitely worth seeking out. Just don't expect too much from them, because even though they're good films, they all lack something unique that sets them apart.
In the meantime Nakamura also started to release comedies aimed at the local market. Chonmage Purin [A Boy and His Samurai] and Eiga Kaibutsukun [Kaibutsu-kun The Movie] are two films you'd do well to avoid, Potechi and Minasan, Sayonara [See You Tomorrow are notably better, with both films clearly benefitting from Gaku Hamada's comedic talent. Pure comedy isn't Nakamura's strong point if you ask me, but opinions seem to differ so you might want to give the latter two a chance.
A few years ago Nakamura tried his hand on some thriller material, with Shirayuki Hime Satsujin Jiken [The Snow White Murder Case] and Yokokuhan [Prophecy] as a result. Again, they're not bad films, but they're not very memorable either. Much like Nakamura's other work, it ends up above-average filler, good for when you're short on potential masterpieces, but never quite a masterpiece itself.
You could say Nakamura is a good choice if you want to ease people into watching Japanese films, as his work isn't too weird, unique or experimental. Then again I'm not sure if people are going to feel the need to further explore Japanese cinema after seeing one of his features. If anything, it's pretty nice filler, just stay away from his films aimed at the local market, unless your OCD compels you to complete Nakamura's entire oeuvre.
Best film: Busu [The Booth] (3.5*)
Worst film: Eiga Kaibutsukun [Kaibutsu-kun The Movie] (1.5*)
Average rating: 2.95 (out of 5)