- Main article: List of Cowboy Bebop episodes
The series is set in the year 2071, when the entire Solar System has been made accessible through reliable hyperspace gates. In 2022, an explosion of an experimental hyperspace gateway severely damaged the Moon, resulting in a debris ring and meteor bombardments that eradicated a large portion of the Earth's population. As a result, many survivors abandoned the barely habitable Earth to colonize the inner planets, the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter.
Mars has become the new central hub of human civilization, and interplanetary crime syndicates exert influence over the government and the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP), limiting their effectiveness in dealing with crime. As a result, a bounty system similar to that in the Old West is established to deal with fugitives, terrorists, and other criminals; the bounty hunters involved are frequently termed "cowboys". The standard currency is the woolong, which is roughly equivalent to the present-day Japanese yen.
The world of Cowboy Bebop is filled with anachronisms. The technology is a mixture of the futuristic (cybernetics, jump gates, energy weapons) and the modern (wheeled cars, handguns, zippo-styled lighters), both of which are blended together. Even "new" technology often looks a bit older and battered.
The three main classes of vehicles are ground vehicles, air vehicles, and space vehicles. Ground vehicles are the most mundane of the three, being wheeled automobiles not much different from modern automobiles. Aircrafts are mostly jet-powered, although helicopters are not uncommon. Spaceships range in size from small one-man "fighters" to immense passenger liners and cargo ships.
Cowboy Bebop revolves around a motley crew of bounty hunters living in the spaceship named Bebop. The team of bounty hunters travel the Solar System trying to apprehend fugitives for bounties. Jet Black, the ship's captain and owner, partnered with Spike Spiegel for his diverse combat skills. During their travels, the Bebop gains three new crew members: Ein, a genetically altered dog with human level intelligence; Faye Valentine, a woman with a mysterious past; and Edward, an eccentric girl who also happens to be a cyber-hacking genius.
Throughout the series, Bebop crew members' pasts catch up with them, and the show regularly utilizes flashbacks to illustrate the history of the main characters. Spike's past as a syndicate enforcer is a major element of the series, while other episodes deal with Jet's previous occupation as an ISSP officer on Ganymede, and Faye's mysterious origins and significant debt problems. The day-to-day life of the crew is also explored throughout the series.